by JULIE BLOCK, M.D.; Scripps Coastal Medical Center, Encinitas

Beyond Baby Fat

5 Tips to Prevent Childhood Obesity

adv_scripps-blockHelp create healthy habits and prevent children from being overweight or obese by starting simple. According to the National Institutes of Health, about one third of children between the ages of 6 and 19 are considered overweight or obese, taking a toll on their emotional health and setting them up for health issues as adults. However, parents and caregivers can do a lot to help children get to and stay at a healthy weight. Try these tips to encourage healthy living in your home:

1. Be a role model.
Parents have tremendous impact on their children. If you lead an active and healthy lifestyle at home, chances are high that your family will as well.

2. Develop healthy eating habits.
Your pediatrician can advise you on what your child needs to eat to support healthy growth and development. Generally children need to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Keep water, fruits, vegetables and other low-calorie snacks readily available, and higher calorie food less visible. Treats are okay in moderation, but limit high-fat and high-sugar snacks and sugar-sweetened drinks to help kids develop good eating habits. Schedule regular meal times since most children thrive on routine. If kids know they will be eating at certain times, they are more likely to eat what they are served.

3. Include kids in grocery shopping and cooking.
Bring your children to the store and have them help you select healthy foods. Have them pick out fruits and vegetables in a rainbow of colors, from red tomatoes to blueberries and yellow bananas. When cooking, give them an age-appropriate task in the kitchen and explain what you are making and why it is good for them.

4. Cut back on screen time.
Spending too much time in front of the television or computer has been shown to contribute to obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting daily screen time to two hours or less and removing mobile devices from bedrooms when it’s time for sleep.

5. Encourage exercise.
The AAP recommends that children 6 and older get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily. The activity does not have to occur at one time, but can be broken into smaller periods during the day. For instance, riding a bike to and from school for 15 minutes, playing at the park for 30 minutes, and a 15-minute family walk after dinner adds up to an hour of activity – and fun. Your pediatrician can suggest an activity or sport that is developmentally appropriate. Don’t overdo it. Exercise should not hurt, and you want your child to have fun with physical activity.

Be positive and proactive and no matter what your child’s weight is, always let them know you love them and that you want them to be healthy and happy. If you have concerns about your child’s development, weight, eating habits, or activity, speak with your pediatrician.

Julie Block, M.D., is a pediatrician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center, Encinitas. Dr. Block is also a certified lactation consultant and believes in providing holistic care. Outside of the office, she enjoys crafts, yoga, and spending time with her family and friends.

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