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How to reduce obesity in children? Review

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This article is a thorough review on how to reduce obesity in children. The statistic of children´s obesity is overwhelming. It is epidemic in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Approximately 17% of children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese and 32% are considered overweight. For some children it is very easy to gain weight and very difficult to get it off. We have to take responsibility for what is going into our children´s mouth.

We know there is genetic predisposition, and maybe you as parent are also struggling with weight. Every person might have more or less the genetic predisposition to gain weight, but the key factor how to reduce obesity in children is eating healthier nutritious foods and increasing the amount of exercise every day.

How to reduce obesity in children

Never skip breakfast.

Have your children eat breakfast every day because if they skip it, they will eat more throughout the whole day. Children who skip breakfast tend to gain weight and become overweight or obese. Give them healthy choices like oatmeal, whole grain cereal high in fiber and low in sugar, fruits, low fat milk or yogurt.

Eat healthier nutritious foods.

Add more fruits and vegetables, a lot of fiber, complex carbohydrates, lean meats, eggs, fish, beans and peas, soy products, whole grains such as brown rice, low fat milk and milk products or soy beverages, smoothies made with fruits, vegetables and low fat yogurt. The problem is the highly refined carbohydrates and processed foods that children eat every day in incredible proportions.

Start feeding your children a nutrient dense diet with lots of different colors fruits and vegetables (bananas, oranges, berries, apples, tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, carrots, squash) that provide vitamins and minerals, healthy fats (avocados, olive oil, nuts, fish, soy, flax seed) and lean proteins.

Offer your kids nutritious meals and snacks and help them develop healthy eating habits. Provide low fat milk, yogurt and dairy products, whole grain products, fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, lentils, peas and beans, and serve reasonable size portions.

Have a family meal.

Make your own meal and eat it at the table with the whole family at a schedule of regular meal time. This simple action will prevent children from overeating. It will also allow you to be a good role model for your kids. You can talk to your kids about what you are eating and why you are making all the right choices to stay healthy.

Eliminate sugar beverages.

Children don´t need all the sugar contained in sodas, lemonades, sweet teas, juices or sport drinks. They have a lot of calories. Eliminating sweet drinks is one of the simplest ways to reduce excess calories in a diet.

Make sure they are drinking enough water throughout the day.

Avoid fast food.

Avoid intake of high-calorie foods, fat, saturated fat, sodium, and carbonated soft drinks. Your children might eat in one fast food meal all the calories they need for the whole day.

The more you eat refined foods, high fructose corn syrup, or sugar, the more insulin the pancreas secrets at much higher levels than it is supposed to do. Insulin´s spikes will store fat in your body. To avoid insulin´s spikes you should eat lean proteins, and all the fruits and vegetables you want.

More physical activity.

Children need regular exercise to stay fit. They need at least an hour of physical activity every day. The more active children are, the more likely they will keep their weight steady. On the contrary, the more sedentary children are, the more likely they will gain weight over time.

Go out with your children and take a walk, or take them for a bike ride. Maybe you could sign up your kids in sports activities, let them choose what they like. If you have a dog, let you kids take the dog out for a walk and play with him every day.

Reduce TV time.

Children who spend too much time every day in front of the TV, playing video games or surfing internet tend to have less physical activity and end up eating too much sugary, salty and fatty snacks. Eating while watching TV is associated with greater food intake, specially high-calorie foods like soft drinks, fried foods, and snacks. The kids consume large amounts of food without being aware of having done so. Limit screen time to no more than 2 hours a day.

Healthy snacks.

  • Air-popped popcorn without butter.
  • Fruits with low-fat yogurt.
  • Fresh vegetables, such as baby carrots or cherry tomatoes
  • Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk.
  • Peanuts, raisins, almonds, nuts and seeds.

Enough sleep.

Make sure your kids are getting enough sleep because lack of sleep is associated with weight gain. Kids should sleep certain amount of hours every day to be healthy, for Infants less than 12 months is 12 to 16 hours. Children 1 to 2 years of age need 11 to 14 hours. Children 3 to 5 years old should sleep 10 to 13 hours. Kids 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours. Teenagers 13 to 18 years old should sleep 8 to 10 hours.

Encourage your kids.

Focus on the positive aspects of making healthier choices rather than the lack of bad habits. Encourage your kids to take one step at a time in the journey of developing healthier habits for a healthier and happier lifestyle. Support them throughout the way of making one change at a time.

Behave good most of the time.

Allow your kids to get out of the diet once in a while, maybe during birthdays, holidays or special occasions. Being too strict with them in some special events might increase their cravings for sugar. Our goal should be to behave our best 90% of the time and leave that 10% for a special treat.

My Final recommendations.

Obesity puts our children at higher risk of suffering from type 2 diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol, asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, bone and joint problems, liver and gall bladder disease, acne, fungal infections, heat rash, restless sleeping patters and sleep apnea. Obese kids are at greater risk of becoming obese adults, with increased morbidity and mortality.

Overweight kids might be teased at school and kept aside from sports activities. This might lead to negative body image, lower self-esteem and depression.

For overweight and obese children the goal should be preventing more weight gain as they grow taller rather than loosing weight. Focus on small changes that can be sustained over time.

You can take action in helping your children and your family in reaching a healthy lifestyle. Being more physically active and consuming healthier foods are the main steps you should take into helping your kids reach a healthier weight and healthier life.

For more information about what is a healthy lifestyle, read my post by clicking here, where I give you tips for a healthier and happier life. If you would like to better understand why some people get obesity and overweight, read my post on why do people get obesity by clicking here.

If you would like to know more about an effective and healthy program to lose weight, read my review of The Mayo Clinic Diet, just clik here.

If you have any questions, please, don´t hesitate to leave your comments in the section below.

Your friend,

Dr. Verónica.

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Dr. Verónica Giannoni

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