December 19, 2018 by John Fernandez and Tanya Racoobian
Childhood Obesity: How to Help Your Kids Lose Weight
Childhood obesity gets a bigger spotlight than usual in September, as schools re-open and the U.S. observes a national campaign to help overweight kids shed pounds.
But despite the best intentions of those observing National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, many parents across the nation still struggle to help their sons and daughters overcome health issues linked to being overweight.
The 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, released last week, by The State of Obesity organization, reports that 36.6 percent of Florida children aged 10-17 are obese or overweight. That percentage, calculated by participants’ BMI (body mass index), puts Florida at fourth in the nation for childhood obesity. Nationwide, researchers find that youth obesity rates are leveling off in the United States, with about one-third of children and teens now overweight or obese. A study earlier this year found that the obesity epidemic is fueling a rise in type 2 diabetes among 10- to 19-year-olds.
A key element of getting your kids to improve their nutrition and reduce portion sizes is to stress “health” over “weight,” says Lucette Talamas, a registered dietitian, with Community Heath at Baptist Health South Florida.
“First, always focus on your child’s health instead of their weight,” says Ms. Talamas. “Second, make it a family affair by getting the family on a healthier lifestyle, not singling out the obese child.”
Baptist Health recently partnered with Sharecare in a Twitter chat focused on childhood obesity. “Encourage kids to regulate their own food intake at meals, asking ‘are you hungry/full’ vs ‘finish your plate.’ #KeepKidsHealthy,” read one Tweet from Ms. Talamas during the chat.
Other health tips for parents: “Avoid using food as a reward or punishment, such as ‘eat your vegetables.’ Instead, applaud with verbal praise,” read another Tweet.
Ms. Talamas says the Twitter chat attracted many comments and questions about how to help kids adopt better heating habits, and help them shed cravings for sugar-laden beverages and snacks.
A healthy eating pattern, she stresses, includes a variety of colorful vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains, low fat or fat free dairy, a variety of lean animal protein and plant-based protein, and healthy oils. Healthy eating patterns also include limiting saturated fats, added sugars, and high sodium, she said. For more guidance, visit: Choosemyplate.gov.
Ms. Talamas urges these ‘big 5’ recommendations to prevent or treat childhood obesity:
- Limit all sugar sweetened beverages.
- Reduce fast food consumption.
- Eat more family meals together.
- Reduce all non-school related screen time to less than 2 hours per day.
- Aim for 60 minutes of physical activity on most days.
“Childhood obesity is caused by many factors, including both unhealthy eating and lack of physical activity,” says Ms. Talamas. “Only coming together as a community and as a family can we tackle childhood obesity. One of the best things a parent can do is to stay positive and model healthy behaviors for their kids.”