Obesity in Children Often Overlooked by Parents

19 07 2010

We love our kids, no matter what.  We want them to be happy, healthy people, but in the U.S., our children’s health is increasingly at risk from obesity.

A new study “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2010”  released by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) found that 1/3rd of American children are now overweight or obese and nearly 10% of infants and toddlers are overweight. That is triple (triple!!) the childhood obesity rate of 1980.

Polls reveal that many parents believe that childhood obesity is a big problem, yet fail to recognize the problem within their own household. Obesity in children (defined as a body mass index, or BMI, between the 85th and 96th percentile for their age and gender) is reaching such epidemic proportions that Dr. James Marks, RWJF’s senior vice president says,“We’re in danger of raising the first generation of children who could live sicker and die younger than the generation before them” [emphasis added].

First Lady Michelle Obama is tackling the issue with the Let’s Move! campaign, a national effort to bring healthier food to schools and to low-income areas, and to get kids exercising.

From a health standpoint, there are few things a parent can do for a child that are more important than introducing a healthy lifestyle and eating habits.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), here are some actions parents and families can take to encourage healthier habits in kids:  

  1. Make sure your child eats breakfast daily
  2. Choose family meals together rather than eating out
  3. Limit screen time (less than 2 hours per day is recommended)
  4. Pay attention – relatively speaking your child may look “healthy,” but keep in mind that he/she may be surrounded by other overweight kids
  5. Encourage your child to get at least one hour  of exercise each day

It’s been shown time and again that too much screen time, whether sitting in front of video games, television, phones, or computers, is linked to insufficient exercise and an overall sedentary lifestyle, which in turn can lead to overweight kids. Along with eating foods overly packed with fat and calories (such as fast food) American kids are spending too much time sitting around.

In the words of a Nike commercial, we need to get our kids up off the couch, get them outside, and inspire them (hopefully with our own active healthy example) to“Just Do It!”