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Childhood obesity is one common health issue our society faces, with more than 3 million U.S. cases being reported per year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
The Mayo Clinic warns that childhood obesity can lead to diabetes in kids and young adults as well as high blood pressure and cholesterol, leading to further health complications. The bad news is there may be no symptoms other than weight that’s above normal to warn parents of a child’s obesity level.
The good news is, childhood obesity is treatable.
“Improving the entire family’s diet and exercise habits is one of the best ways to achieve a healthy weight in the child,” the Mayo Clinic says.
Dr. Joanna Dolgoff, MD, child obesity specialist for “The Biggest Loser” and author of “Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right,” says improving a child’s diet does not have to be an arduous task. “Little changes add up to big nutritional gains,” she says.
In her “10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Child’s Diet” article on doctoroz.com, Dr. Dolgoff provides quick, easy steps to makeover your child’s diet and prevent weight gain.
To start, Dr. Dolgoff suggests not allowing junk food in the house.
“If it isn’t in the house, your kids can’t eat it. Or at least they will have a more difficult time getting their hands on it,” she says. “Your first line of defense starts at the grocery store. Leave your kids at home when you are grocery shopping, if possible.
Make a list before you leave your house and stick to it. Don’t get distracted by the tempting treats in the market. Buy healthy snacks to keep at home and save the junk for when you are out and can’t avoid it.”
Dr. Dolgoff also says don’t let your kids drink their calories with sugary beverages, especially found in soda and juices. Replace sugary drinks with water or flavored seltzers. Also, pay attention to portion size and overeating — everything in moderation — and don’t always stick to the “clean plate club.”
“The best thing you can teach your children is to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Do not push your kids to eat more than they need, even if you think they have not eaten enough,” Dr. Dolgoff says.
Natural foods, in their purest forms, such as fruits, vegetables, meats and grains should make up the bulk of your child’s diet, according to the doctor. Consider low-fat or fat-free cheese, yogurt and milk to help cut down on regular dairy products containing saturated fat, known to cause heart disease. Also, avoid fried foods and grill or bake when possible.
“Save the fast foods and processed foods for occasional treats. My rule of thumb: If you can’t easily pronounce all the ingredients on the food label, skip it!”
Meal planning helps to manage calories and sugar intake. Dr. Dolgoff notes that cooking over the weekend helps with the hustle and bustle of eating healthy on school nights. Keeping kids moving with daily activities that increase movement is also helpful in improving your kid’s health.
“Encourage family walks and bike rides. Grab a ball and play some basketball,” Dr. Dolgoff says. “When going to a store, pick the worst parking spot so you have to walk further to get to your destination. Ban elevators; take the stairs instead.”
In short, eat right, play right, sleep tight.
To learn more about tips for preventing childhood obesity for parents and caregivers, read this American Heart Association Healthy Kids article.
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