10 ways to prevent childhood obesity

The number of children facing health complications from being overweight or obese is continuing to grow at an alarming rate. According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one-third of American children currently fall into this category. In fact, this generation may be the first to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

Medical experts say children are experiencing the same ailments much older people experience upon weight gain, including risk factors for heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Your Charlotte pediatrician may be able to help establish healthy living guidelines for you and your family. If in need of a provider in your area, sign in to Angie’s List to see which of the 445 pediatricians in the area have been highly rated and recommended by our members.

While healthy living may require a lifestyle change for some families, there are small changes you can make that will have an immediate impact. Here are 10 tips for helping children maintain a healthy weight.

1. Breastfeed your baby. Women can protect their babies from the start by following the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendation that babies be solely breastfed for six months and continue to be breastfed for the first year.

2. Establish a home environment that supports healthy eating and daily physical activity. Usher your children away from the video game console and out the door to play with other children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than two hours of quality television per day.

3. Set the example. Children usually grow up to be like their parents. If you want them to eat well and to engage in physical activity, they need to see you doing it, too.

4. Broaden their food horizons. Many parents prepare separate meals for themselves and their children. Unfortunately, those kids’ meals often include relatively unhealthy choices, such as hot dogs, French fries or pizza. Introduce them to the healthy foods you eat. Introduce them to different types of cuisine like Thai or Mediterranean.

5. Eat more fruits and vegetables. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that fruits and vegetables make up about half of a meal.

6. Send your child’s lunch to school. Many schools are trying to adopt healthier menus, but by sending a lunch, you fully control what is going into your children’s bodies. There’s nothing that stops you from packing a healthy lunch, ensuring your child is eating right.

7. Save the sweets for special occasions. Everything is fine in moderation, but children don’t need to eat candy, cake and ice cream every day. Leave that for birthdays and the Fourth of July picnic. That makes these foods more special, and it’s better for their teeth.

8. Break the soda and juice habits. Many people think they’re making the right choice by switching children’s drinks from soda to juice, but juice is high in sugar, too. The best liquids for children to drink is water and milk.

9. Check with your doctor before placing a child on a calorie-restricted diet. Many doctors don’t necessarily recommend that children be placed on the same diet as adults because there are nutrients they need for their development. Discuss an appropriate weight loss strategy with your pediatrician or family doctor.

10. Enroll your children in extracurricular activities that involve physical activity. Even if you don’t believe in competitive sports, there are enough activities, such as dance, yoga or swimming that encourage movement and flexibility, but don’t always require competition.

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