6 Ways to Prevent Childhood Obesity in your family and why it matters

One of the biggest health issues facing children in the U.S. today continues to be childhood obesity.

Childhood obesity is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. It occurs when a child is well above the normal weight for his or her age and height.

How do I  know if my child is obese and their weight is a health concern?

You may not know the answer to this question just by looking at your child and will need to seek out the help of a healthcare professional for further testing.

Not all children carrying extra pounds are overweight or obese. Some children have larger than average body frames and it depends on their growth cycle. Some children normally carry different amounts of body fat at the various stages of development, which is commonly referred to as “baby fat.”

Almost a quarter of all Hispanic kids in the U.S are obese

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 17 percent of children ages 2 to 19 are obese. That’s about 12.7 million kids. And the statistics for Hispanic children are even worse. Almost 23 percent of all Hispanic kids are obese, according to a recent Jama Study.

Why are Latino and Hispanic children more obese?

There are hereditary factors that contribute to obesity, but for the most part, it is a lifestyle and cultural issue.  

Immigrant parents and families who are not informed about healthy eating, who lack access to healthy food choices in their neighborhoods or simply feed their children fast or processed foods because they are less expensive, are all reasons why Latino children may be more obese than their non-Latino counterparts.

Also, a 2006 study by the University of Delaware found a strong association between childhood obesity and a lack of adequate food in low-income households.  

Here are 6 easy and affordable tips to prevent childhood obesity

  1. Public ProgramsMyplate.gov, for example, is a government website that teaches individuals and families how to make healthier food choices.
  2. Calculate your child’s BMI– If you are not sure whether or not your child is obese, the CDC suggests calculating their BMI (Body Mass Index) to figure it out. The agency has a helpful and quick guide on how to do that here.
  3. Ask a healthcare professional’s opinion– Your doctor or pediatrician should also be able to provide advice on how to improve your family’s diet and prevent or alleviate childhood obesity. If your child is overweight, it is worthwhile to take him or her to a doctor for an evaluation.  Sometimes this could be due to issues such as thyroid illnesses, diabetes or other hereditary illnesses. It is important to have a thorough checkup before beginning a nutrition and exercise plan.
  4. Getting hands on with food education at farmer’s markets- Going to a farmer’s market where you can meet your local farmers and learn more about the produce that is in season can also help. And if you have the misconception that healthier eating means spending more money, think about it as a cost-saving move that, in the long term, can be a life-saving move as well.
  5. Parents exercise by example- If possible, families should exercise together, making it a part of a healthy lifestyle plan. Most often than not, parents truly are the best role models for their children’s eating and exercise habits.  Parents who eat healthy and exercise regularly are more likely to have children that do so too.

A healthier diet means a longer, happier life

Working towards healthier eating and a more active lifestyle doesn’t just eliminate obesity. It will also eliminate the risk of many other major diseases in the future, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.