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Pediatric Health

A Healthier Tomorrow for Our Families

Startling Obesity Statistics in Children Demands Attention

June 01, 2010
Given the demands of everyday life, finding the time to make eating Healthy and exercising a priority can be tough for many families. As a working mom, I can vouch that my days are a whirlwind. Considering the daily battle of teaching our children "right" from "wrong," their A-B-C's and 1-2-3's, we also need to worry about what they're eating, if they're watching too much television and if they're getting enough physical activity. So, why exactly is there so much concern over the lifestyles and weight of our children?

For starters, the statistics are alarming. Obesity has been classified as a national epidemic by the Surgeon General of the United States. Here at home, nearly 33 percent of Indiana children are classified as overweight or obese.* Not only is the probability of childhood obesity persisting into adulthood high, but being overweight is also associated with several health problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, depression and dyslipidemia. In addition to health problems, kids may also have to deal with possible harassment from their peers if they're overweight.

But, the good news is having a healthy family doesn't have to be another chore. Helping your family form healthy habits is simpler than you might think:

• Make sure everyone eats breakfast – even if it's just a cereal bar and a glass of milk on the way to school. Research has shown that skipping breakfast can affect school work and it can also increase the likelihood of poor eating habits later in the day due to hunger.

• Make sure there is a fruit and vegetable on the plate at each meal. Fruits and vegetables provide fiber and a variety of nutrients that are important for heart health and the immune system. A simple handful of carrots with a slice of pizza and a dessert of apple slices is not only cost effective but an easy way to make a more complete meal.

• Change to low fat dairy products. Using 1% or skim milk and low fat cheeses/yogurts is a simple change for families to make. There is little to no cost difference in these products.

• Take the television out of the bedroom. A television in the bedroom can encourage more screen time and can affect sleep habits.

• Limit screen time to two hours or less per day. Many kids find their way to the couch or computer screen from the time they come home until the time they go to bed. Decreased activity levels can affect weight and overall wellbeing.

• Get 60 minutes of play a day. Just like we schedule homework time or dinner time, try scheduling an activity time. 15 or 30 minutes, in addition to activity they get at school, can make a difference.

As parents, taking easy steps such as these can make a big difference for our families!

* According to the 2008 National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality (NICHQ).

Heather Cupp, RD, CD, Dietitian and Program Coordinator for the Riley Hospital POWER Program (Pediatric OverWeight Education and Research)

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Tags: Health, Parenting

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