Childhood obesity is growing at an alarming rate and has tripled in the last 30 years. One in six school-aged children is now overweight. If you're not sure if your child is overweight or obese, your physician can help make that determination using a chart to plot height, weight and age.
A study published by Penn State and Temple universities showed that overweight and obese children miss more school days than normal and underweight kids.
blood pressure used to be diagnosed mainly in adults, but it's becoming more common among kids. Children who are overweight usually have higher blood pressure than those who aren't, and high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease — just like it is for adults. On the positive side, high blood pressure can be lowered with exercise and a healthy diet.
Some ways to overcome risk factors for obesity are:
Eat at home more often. Typically, people eat healthier and take in fewer calories when eating at home. For example, drinking milk or water at home is not unusual, whereas high-calorie soft drinks often are a popular choice when eating out.
Make choices as a family to be active. Turn off the television or the computer and find some activities that you can participate in together. The number of hours spent watching television is associated with children being overweight. Taking a walk or riding bikes might be more common, but families often can enjoy time together while mowing the lawn, vacuuming the floor, raking leaves or working in the garden Check out www.letsmove.gov for help in turning your family into an "active" family.
Model healthful food choices and physical activity. Some parents might think children aren't listening to or following their nutrition advice, but generally children model much of a parent's eating behaviors, especially when the children are younger. Children's modeling not only includes parent's food choices and activity, but also the portion sizes that adults eat.
For many of us, it seems like this obesity epidemic kind of sneaked up on us. That's what happens with a lot of our negative health habits. But we can help prevent risks of obesity by being aware of how we're eating, how we are moving, and how we spend our leisure time.
Set the stage for your children to have healthy adult lives. The old-fashioned ways of eating healthful, balanced meals and being active are still recommended to help your child grow to be a healthy adult.
No matter the age of your child, today is not too late to get started. And don't forget to be a good role model while you're being your child's cheerleader for good nutrition and exercise.
For more ideas, resources and suggestions to help your family improve their nutrition, healthful eating and physical activity, go to www.choosemyplate.gov, or www.letsmove.gov.
Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.