Battling Childhood Obesity: Can I have a snack?

Battling Childhood Obesity: Can I have a snack?

This is probably the most common phrase heard at many houses with children. As a parent, a bag of chips is sometimes so much easier to prepare then the completely peeled and perfectly sliced apple.

Over the last several years there has been quite the to do in the media regarding the rising concern of childhood obesity. It is not uncommon to turn on the news and hear the media discuss one or more of the devastating side effects commonly associated with obesity. Yet, rarely does the news focus on how to improve one’s health.

My Prescription for Childhood Weight Management

Limit Screen Time

The magic number is two hours or less a day of screen time. And by “screen” I mean all types: TV, IPad, phones, computers, and gaming systems. Screens inherently take all the activity out of life. My first recommendation is to put it down and start moving.

Sweaty Exercise

Now that we have put down our screens, my second recommendation is to do some sweaty exercise in any form: riding bikes, playing with friends, sports, or walks (it doesn’t always mean the weight room or treadmill).

Make it fun

The goal is 60 minutes, but again this is a stepwise process. When getting started, take it slow but build quickly.

Family Dinners

Eat meals together as a family as often as possible. This helps on several levels. Have your children help prepare meals, this way they can learn early on how to prepare healthy meals. Family dinner is a great time to sit down in a non-threatening environment and discuss struggles and successes of your weight management goals. An added bonus is this is a way to get your children out from behind those screens, and if you a preparing the meals at home, there is no Mc-anything with fries and a big gulp at the table.

MyPlate: Rules to live by!

The USDA MyPlate picture pretty much says it all. The goal is increasing fruits and vegetables, at the same time making sure grains and protein don’t take over the entire place. has great recommendations for creating well balance meals. The plate should also remind us to use age-appropriate portions. By no means should the 2 through 5-year-old be eating as much as your teenagers.

Limit the Sweet Tooth/Junk Food

Sweets should be the exception, never the norm. This includes sweets/junk food in all forms: juice, sports drinks, chips, pizza, and yes baked goods.

Now it’s time to get started. You have my 5-point prescription for weight management. If you’re starting from an age-appropriate weight, great! Continue on that path and remember there is always room for improvement. For those of you and your children that are struggling to maintain an age appropriate weight, talk with your pediatrician/family doctor about your struggles. Rarely is the goal for growing children to actually lose weight, but maintaining weight and allowing your child to grow (taller) into the weight.

How Parents Can Help Battle Childhood Obesity

Weight management is a marathon, not a sprint; there are no quick fixes. So when you start, take one step at a time and master it, then move on to the next step. Jumping in head first, can leave us feeling overwhelmed and will doom us from the get go. Remember, from a health and weight standpoint, all of us have room to improve. Here are five tried and true ways to help us and our children achieve a healthier lifestyle.

For individual concerns or questions about your child’s health, talk to his or her pediatrician.

4 Tips for Parents

As parents it is our responsibility to take care of our children and to help them lead the healthiest lives we can offer. Even though the previous five points apply to us as much as to our children, because we are adults I am adding four extra recommendations to your prescription.

  1. Be a Role Model of Health
  2. If your children see you cheating, they will also cheat. This needs to be a family change in lifestyle. So when you send your child out to play, go with them. When you need a snack, pick a healthy snack. You will get much less resistance and then everyone benefits.

  3. Be a Cheerleader
  4. When your child struggles or has failures, you are there to pick them back up and put them back on the path to be coming healthy. Teach them that falling back into old habits (especially poor food choices) isn’t a good answer.

    This is just as important—if not more so—as celebrating you child’s successes. By all means, celebrate those successes—without sweets.

  5. Be Sensitive
  6. This is a difficult topic for many children. Talk to your children openly and honestly without being judgmental or critical. Let them know that you are there to support them.

  7. Be Patient
  8. This is not an easy path, but it is the right path. There will be ups and downs. As you show a good example and stay strong, this will help your children establish a pattern of healthy choices while they are young versus trying to establish healthy habits later in life.