Help your kids fight obesity

Parents go to great lengths to keep their children healthy. Yet, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, many parents of overweight or obese children and teens appear not to recognize their children’s weight as a serious health issue.

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“Because obesity levels among young children and teens have dramatically increased in the past four decades, perception of normal weight has shifted upward,” said Therese Sirles, APRN, director, Children’s Hospital Foundation Office of Child Advocacy of Norton Children’s Hospital.

“Parents who boast that their child is ‘big and strong’ or state ‘it’s just baby fat,’ deny the real possibility that their child is actually obese,” Sirles said. “Sadly, when parents finally realize the truth, they feel overwhelmed at the amount of weight their child needs to lose, distraught at the potential health risks posed by childhood obesity and powerless to help their child achieve a healthy weight.”

Fortunately, help is available through a new program called “Play Smart & Eat Right.” The yearlong campaign, created by University of Louisville Football Coach Bobby Petrino and several pediatricians at Norton Children’s Hospital, encourages children and teens to participate in an enjoyable sport or fun activity, drink water instead of sugary drinks, eat fruits and vegetables at every meal, and balance screen time and physical activity.

To help your children reach and maintain a healthy weight, experts at Norton Children’s Hospital recommend the following:

  • Begin at birth. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of obesity.
  • Watch food intake. Control meal portions, snacks and sugary drinks.
  • Eat healthy. Serve five portions of fruits and/or vegetables every day.
  • Drink more water. For variety, add fresh fruit or veggies, such as strawberries or slices of orange or cucumber, to water and refrigerate overnight.
  • Be active as a family. Schedule one hour of exercise every day.
  • Limit television/computer time. Make a rule to limit screen time to two hours or less each day.
  • Know your child’s weight. Discuss concerns with your pediatrician.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults. They also have an increased risk of health problems, such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer and osteoarthritis.

The easiest time to build healthy habits is while kids are young. Parents play a critical role in successful efforts to prevent obesity. Help your child find a sport or other physical activity he or she enjoys. Be a role model by eating healthy and serving wholesome foods. Let your kids know you want to ensure they Play Smart & Eat Right because you love them.

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