Over the past few decades, the number of obese children in the United States has increased drastically. One in 5 children ages 6 to 19 is now obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This number has tripled since the 1970s.
Instilling healthy habits in your children is crucial to prevent obesity. Children who are obese are at higher risk of developing a host of chronic health conditions like asthma, sleep apnea, bone problems, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and high cholesterol, according to the CDC.
Below, you’ll find a handful of strategies that can help you prevent obesity in your children.
Be active every day
One of the best ways to stave off obesity is through regular activity. If your child isn’t a fan of team sports like soccer or basketball, don’t worry — solo activities like jumping rope or swimming can burn just as many calories.
The CDC recommends children ages 6 to 17 get at least one hour of moderate to vigorous activity in each day. Ideally, this exercise should be a mix of aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities.
Ensure your kids make smart food choices
Limit your child’s intake of sugary snacks and drinks, as a diet high in sugar and saturated fat can lead to weight gain. Try to focus on feeding your kids a well-balanced diet that includes a mix of fruits and veggies, lean meat, low-fat dairy products and whole grains.
Teaching your children about healthy eating habits at home will encourage them to make good decisions outside of the house (and when you’re not around). For example, the next time you’re preparing dinner, tell them about the benefits of choosing salmon over a cheeseburger.
Make sure your children drink enough water
According to a recent study from Harvard University, more than half of children in the U.S. don’t drink enough water.
It’s crucial for kids to be hydrated, as proper hydration can help regulate one’s weight. Wondering how much H20 your child needs? A good rule of thumb is that a child (much like an adult) needs one quart of water for every 1,000 calories burned.
Remember: Ample sleep is essential
Getting enough restful sleep each night is a crucial element in preventing obesity in children. Here are the recommended hours of sleep a child needs each night based on their age, according to the National Sleep Foundation:
- 0–3 months 14–17 hours
- 4–11 months 12–15 hours
- 1–2 years old 11–14 hours
- 3–5 years old 10–13 hours
- 6–13 years old 9–11 hours
- 14–17 years old 8–10 hours
Teach children about moderation
Children shouldn’t eat foods high in sugar and saturated fat often. That doesn’t mean, however, that they need to eliminate them from their diet completely.
Teach your kids that it’s OK to eat indulgent foods, so long as it’s done in moderation. An ice cream cone as a special treat once a week is OK, for example, but eating a bowl of ice cream after dinner each night probably isn’t the best idea.
Model healthy behavior Research has shown that children model their parents’ behavior well into adulthood. This means it’s crucial for parents to demonstrate healthy lifestyle habits. Eat nutrient-rich foods, limit indulgences, fit regular activity into your schedule, drink plenty of water and get restful sleep each night.