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Three Tips for National Childhood Obesity Month
by Cori Ritchey
In the past decade, childhood obesity numbers in the United States have tripled, according to the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Because of these alarming statistics, childhood obesity is being viewed as one of the most dangerous health crises of our time.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for children between the ages of 2 and 19, there’s a 19.7% prevalence rate. That’s roughly one in six children. As the age range gets older, the higher the prevalence.
Obesity can cause issues for nearly every single system in the body - be it muscular, cardiovascular, or respiratory. The adolescent years are vital for physical growth and development. Because of this, childhood obesity can cause multiple other health issues later in life, including heart disease, diabetes, increased stroke and cancer risk, and high blood pressure. Obese children are also extremely likely to become obese adults, furthering their risk for these issues.
September has been dedicated to awareness efforts surrounding childhood obesity, in hopes of finding its warning signs and educating parents and children on how to live a healthier lifestyle. Obviously, it is important to start educating a child on healthy life habits as early as possible, but it is never too late to change.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when looking at ways to be healthier. There are so many different diets and fitness plans. With children, it’s important to keep it simple. To make it easier, here are three straight-forward ways to help your child learn healthy habits as they grow.
1. Keep them active. It is so easy for children to get stuck behind their technology now-a-days, but there are so many different types of physical activities for them to explore as well. There are plenty of children's leagues for several different kinds of sports and activities to get your child involved in. Participating in these kinds of activities doesn’t only help your kid’s activity levels, but it also helps them socially
If your child is not big into sports, prioritize movement with family events. Take them for a walk after dinner each night, or go for a hike on the weekends with them. There are so many ways to stay active, and it’s important for your child to find something physical that they enjoy, so that they continue it as they grow older.
2. Expose them to healthy foods early on, and keep them stocked. Kids can be picky eaters. When all the restaurant children’s menus only consist of cheeseburgers and chicken tenders, it’s easy to see why. It is important to introduce your child to different kinds of foods at an early age, so that they will naturally find other things they like besides these normal, non-nutritious options.
Expose them to all different kinds of fruits and vegetables and keep them stocked so that they can make good decisions about what they eat when they’re at home. Having these choices will create better habits, so they are more inclined to make healthier decisions outside of the house.
3. Talk about portion control. Portion control can be tricky for kids, because as they get older, they will keep needing more food to fuel their growth. But once your child starts to hit their late teens and nears the end of their developmental stages, it’s important for them to understand how to eat different foods in the correct proportions. Teaching your children that less nutritious foods are okay as long as they are in smaller proportions will help them develop balance later in life. This will prevent thoughts around disordered eating.
Starting these steps early will set your child up for success, however, it is never too late to change and become healthier. Advocating for their own health by making educated nutrition and physical fitness choices will help prevent all kinds of life-altering diseases at all stages in life. Educating your child today will help them make better choices tomorrow!
Cori Ritchey is a Washington D.C. native newly transplanted to the Boston area, expected to graduate from Emerson College in 2022 with a Masters in Journalism. She is a graduate of Penn State University with a bachelors of science in Kinesiology. Through her experience working on the frontlines of health care, led by a love for reading, writing, and public speaking, Cori became a health and science reporter to shed light on these issues.
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