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September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

September 18, 2013

It’s nice to finally see the sun peak through the clouds when it comes to obesity rates in children. A recent report from the CDC reveals a decline in obesity rates among preschool children from low-income families. The report shows that from 2008 to 2011, there was a downward trend in obesity rates for young children in 19 states, including Florida.

It is a refreshing statistic, since obesity rates in the past 30 years have more than doubled among children ages 2-5, have tripled among youth ages 6-11, and have more than tripled among adolescents ages 12-19. In 2010, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Overweight and obese youth are at greater risk for health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic diseases.

The reason for the decline in obesity rates in preschool children is unclear. Theories for the decline include: the increase in breast-feeding rates, a drop in calories from sugary drinks, and a change in the food offered in the federal nutrition programs for women and children.

Another way to lower your child's risk of becoming overweight or obese is to adopt healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity.

What can parents do?

As parents, it’s our job to make sure that our kids are making healthy choices. It’s important that your kids balance the calories they eat, with calories they burn through activity and growth. The goal is to reduce the rate of unhealthy weight gain, while allowing for normal growth and development. Children and teens should not be placed on a weight reduction diet without consulting a healthcare provider.

Get them moving

Encourage your child to be physically active for at least 60 minutes each day, or almost every day. Examples of activity include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Playing tag
  • Jumping rope
  • Bike riding
  • Swimming
  • Dancing to music
  • Soccer
  • Hoola hoop
  • Playing at a park
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Reduce screen time

Limit video game, computer and television screen time to one to two hours per day, and avoid television time for children under the age of two. Switch screen time into active time. Get them moving during the time your kids would traditionally watch television or play games.

Encourage healthy eating habits

Healthy eating includes:

  • Plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain products
    • Grill, steam or sauté vegetables. Use canned or frozen vegetables if you are in a hurry. Be sure to select canned vegetables with no added salt, butter or cream sauces.
    • Have a fruit bowl with a variety of fruits (nectarines, grapes, bananas, pears, plums) for kids to snack on after school.
    •  Stock the pantry with whole grain crackers, whole grain breakfast cereals, whole-wheat tortillas, oatmeal and whole grain breads.
  • Low fat/non-fat dairy products
    • Fill the fridge with part-skim mozzarella cheese sticks, low fat yogurts, low fat cottage cheese, and 1% or non-fat milk
    • Lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils and beans
    • Serve reasonably-sized portions
    • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages
      • Substitute water for sugar beverages
      • Eat whole fruits in place of fruit juices
  • Limit sugar and saturated fat intake
    • Read food labels to educate yourself on how much sugar and saturated fats are in that product
    • Try reducing the amount of fat in recipe ingredients by using lower-fat alternatives
    • Replace foods high in sugar or fat with more nutritious options
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Help guide your family towards a healthier lifestyle by incorporating some of the suggestions listed above in your daily routine!

Here are some additional resources to help guide you and your child toward healthy activity and nutrition behaviors: 

The Basics About Childhood Obesity

BMI Percentile Calculator for Child and Teen

How much physical activity do you need?

Fruits and vegetables portion sizes

Portion Control


We Can! – A national education program to help kids stay at a healthy weight

Resources for Kids

MyPlate for Kids

BAM! Body and Mind

Best Bones Forever