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Tips for Dealing with Childhood Obesity

In the last 20 years, the rate of obesity in adults and children has increased. Obesity now affects 1 in 3 adults and one in 6 children and adolescents. Obesity increases the risk for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancer. In addition, obesity-related medical costs are quite excessive. Promoting healthy lifestyles is ideally a family priority, and is best accomplished with teamwork in mind. The following simple tips are useful to prevent a weight problem from emerging, and are instrumental steps in tackling a weight problem that has already presented itself.

  • Promote portion control. When cooking, try to prepare just enough for everyone to enjoy a single portion at meals. If you have extras, place leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer before you sit down to eat in order to avoid overeating at meals.
  • Plan ahead for healthy snacks. Work with your children to pack snack bags in advance so that healthy vegetables and fruits are ready and waiting when kids get home from school.
  • Pay attention to the body's hunger and satiety clues. Help your children learn how to pick up signals the body sends that it is time to eat and that it is time to stop eating when satisfied. Encourage children to avoid extremes of feeling "starving" and "stuffed".
  • Get active as a family. Plan for fun family time that involves plenty of activity and movement. Go for walks together, ask your children to teach you their favorite sport, and enjoy the outdoors as a family.
  • Make simple changes to your family's daily routine. This can be as easy as taking the stairs, parking at the furthest spot, or getting off the bus a stop earlier and walking the rest of the way.
  • Make sure your attitude is positive and supportive. Do your best to avoid power struggles around food and activity. Teach your children how to make healthy choices and control portions as independently as possible.
  • Avoid using food as a punishment or as a reward. When managing your children's behavior select incentives, rewards, and consequences that do not involve food.

This information has been approved by Ronina Covar, MD (April 2014).

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