Childhood Obesity Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know if your child’s weight is in the unhealthy range?
How can you help to keep your child at a healthy weight?
Keeping a child's weight in the healthy range is a matter of balance between the number of calories consumed and the number of calories used. If a child eats more than he/she uses, the result is weight gain. From an early age, children can learn to like or dislike certain foods based on what is normally eaten in the house. You can get a 2-year-old child to like fruits and vegetables, but if a child has reached adolescence, it will be difficult to get him/her interested in fruits and vegetables for the first time. The balance between diet and physical activity is important in maintaining a healthy weight. Some helpful advice for a healthier lifestyle would be:
- Include vegetables and fruits in every meal
- Include variety in food types consumed
- Avoid sugar-containing beverages as much as possible
- Have meals as a family
- Look at the labels and nutritional information
- Have home-made meals instead of refined and fast foods when possible
- Substitute sugar-filled and fat-filled snacks with fruit snacks
- Have your child's pediatrician involved in healthy weight monitoring
- Include the entire family in healthy lifestyle behavior
- At least 30 minutes of daily physical activity
What causes a child to reach an unhealthy weight?
How many American children are affected by obesity?
What are the factors that cause a child to be overweight or obese?
We are learning more and more about the role that genetics plays in a child’s weight. In fact, the biggest predictor of having a child with weight issues is when parents also have weight issues. Diabetes during pregnancy and large weight gain during pregnancy can even modify the developing child’s genes, making it even more difficult for the child to manage their weight later in life.
Behaviors are thought to be an important part of the development of obesity. Eating behaviors such as large portion sizes, unhealthy food types, eating meals away from home and drinking sugar-rich beverages are some of the contributors to gaining weight. Physical activity, or lack of it, is an important factor in determining how many calories are spent or stored in the body as fat. Children are just not as active as they used to be. Video games, televisions, computers and mobile devices have replaced outdoor play and group sports. This is an important contributor to childhood obesity. Social norms also contribute to this problem. If your child eats the same way as his/her friends and has a similar body type, you may not think of him/her as suffering from overweight or obesity. Making an effort to change the family's eating behavior and monitoring your child's eating behavior are important changes in helping your child's weight.
Children are greatly influenced by their environment and by other children. What children do at school, in daycare, in afterschool programs and in the community affects what they eat and their physical activity level. Children spend long hours away from home and are learning some of their behaviors outside of the home.