ABC Guide to Avoiding Childhood Obesity

by Mark Goeder-tarant - Date: 2007-03-20 - Word Count: 763 Share This!

Childhood obesity has become a major health epidemic, with approximately 15% of children considered to be obese the world over. The main reason for the childhood obesity epidemic is a shift in eating habits, away from fresh food, whole grains and vegetables to convenience food high in fat, sugar and additives. Another major factor is a decline in activity for both children and adults, who now spend more time in sedentary activities like watching TV and playing computer games that participating in exercise.

In addition, children who have obese or overweight parents have a high risk of becoming obese themselves as a result of poor family eating habits and unhealthy food choices. Parents today are spending less time with their kids and giving less parental advice about healthy food and activity choices. In the USA, UK and Australia 25% of children are considered overweight or obese. The health risks associated with obesity in childhood are great including low self esteem, depression, hormonal imbalances, diabetes and joint problems.

Worse still, the obese child who remains overweight into adulthood has the potential to develop more serious health risks later in their life, including arthritis, stroke and heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, and bowel cancer.

Fast food marketing giants spending billions of dollars in advertising to target children and teens, selling them cheap and high-calorie low nutrition value foods, such as crisps, soft drink, hamburgers and confectionery, coupled with lack of control of parents, is the major cause of incorrect eating habits and obesity.

Research shows that even drinking soft drink or soda regularly increases a child's chance of becoming overweight or obese by 60%. Worse still, even moderate exercise is no longer a regular daily activity for children and teens. Most children do not play any sport or even walk or cycle to school. This is compounded by the fact that busy parents have less time than ever to supervise their children and take them out to play in local parks or on the street.

A fear of stranger danger and abduction has added to the value of allowing kids to watch TV or play computer games rather than be outside without parental supervision.

Doctors and nutritionists recommend that most overweight children should be encouraged to lose weight through long lasting positive lifestyle changes in eating habits and activity, rather than be put on a weight-loss diet. It is better that children begin to moderate unhealthy choices, eat smaller portion sizes, and begin moderate exercise three to four days a week for thirty to forty five minutes, building on this over a longer period rather than staging a crash course diet.

The main parenting strategies aim to encourage children to gradually change their (1) eating habits towards well-balanced, healthy, varieties of freshly cooked and nutritious foods, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and introducing more healthy recipes and nutritious lunch box ideas; (2) become more active , and (3) monitor their own progress and weight loss - until they are able to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. It is often easier to facilitate a change in habits for children compared to adults. Importantly, parents need to talk to their ids and provide healthy choices at home, and healthy lunch box offerings for school.

For parents needing support, internet Parent 's Forums and Parenting Blogs offer support and community exchange of ideas and tips to help address issues relating to childhood obesity. Other advice includes getting kids involved in shopping and meal preparation to help teach them better nutrition and food choice, and assigning chores as another way to get kids up and active.

Avoid stocking high-fat, high-sugar snack in home, provide fruit and healthy alternatives like fat free pretzels and popcorn. Dilute fruit juice and avoid soft drinks, water is always best. Try to make good choices when going out for dinner, and avoid using food as a reward/comfort. Instead, give kids the attention they deserve by listening, providing encouraging words and hugs and treating the family out to the cinema or local bowling alley to celebrate small successes.

Physical inactivity includes pastimes such as watching TV or playing computer games, should be reduced to no more than two hours a day. Gradual increase in physical activity, such as walking, bike riding, swimming, dancing and ball sports is suggested three to four times a week to begin. Importantly, remember the time you spend together as a family being active is also a great way to reconnect and bond and should be a fun experience for all new fitness plan can mean a whole lot more than simply losing weight.

Related Tags: dieting, childhood obesity, parenting advice, family health, weight loss for children

ABCFitKids offers guides, tips and tricks on avoiding childhood obesity for parents. Find out how can parents and their childrens can expand theirhorizons at

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