Child and Teen Obesity – Why is it so prevalent?

by on January 19th, 2010 at 7:00 am

I cannot get through the news without seeing at least one reference to child/teen obesity.  Why is it such a problem in America? Is it the type of food that children today are putting in their mouths, and who is to blame for such behavior?

What’s the problem?

First of all, we must define what child and adolescent obesity really is. Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and teenagers. It occurs when a child is above the normal weight for his or her age and height. The problem is that the children are showing a very high rate of obesity that can lead into health issues as they grow older, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The statistics for obesity in children and teens are astounding.  A recent statistic that I found at www.womanshealth.gov is a great example of how things have changed: “In the early 70s, fewer than one in six children (14.2 percent) in the town of Bogalusa [Louisiana] was overweight or obese. By 2008-2009, almost half of the town’s children and teens (48.4 percent) fell into those categories, according to a study in the April issue of Pediatrics.”

Remember that children grow at different rates, so it may be hard to tell if your child is obese or overweight.  Make an appointment at your doctor’s office and ask them to measure your child’s height and weight to determine if he or she is in a healthy range.

What can be done?

After you take your child to the doctor to determine the height to weight ratio, and if it is found that your child is either overweight or obese, a healthy meal plan is a must! This not only means that your child needs a change in his/her diet, but the whole family, too.

Remember, even though other members in your family may be at a healthy weight, children don’t understand why they would have to eat something different than their family members, so it’s important for the family to eat the same foods to avoid creating resentment in an overweight child.

One of the most important things to remember is portion control. Measure meals with a scale to reduce overeating, and if your child says he/she isn’t full, offer a healthy snack 15 minutes after dinner to ensure actual hunger and not just habit.

Here are a few more ideas to help your obese child:

  • Encourage routine exercise
  • Measure meals
  • Cut out sweets
  • Give support
  • Make eating healthy and working out fun, not punishment
  • Buy fewer “snack” foods and more healthy foods
  • Cook a hearty breakfast with fiber and protein
  • Offer water instead of fruit juice
  • Nix fast-foods
  • Don’t use food as a reward
  • Plan meals as a family

 
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