How to Prevent and Manage Childhood Obesity

September 14, 2010

Childhood Obesity Awareness Blog Carnival

This article was written for inclusion in the blog carnival hosted by Littlestomaks to promote awareness of childhood obesity as part of the National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Please read to the end of this article to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
You’ve heard it before — we have an obesity epidemic going on, and it’s not only affecting adults, it’s hitting children too. Currently over 23 million U.S. children and teens ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese. If that statistic isn’t scary enough, read this: The prevalence of obesity among kids ages 6 to 11 has increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008, and among teens ages 12 to 19, the rates have increased from 5% to 18.1%.*

Instead of focusing on the possible causes of childhood obesity, I’d like to suggest ways to help prevent an increased prevalence and to help currently obese children. For younger children, most changes will occur with the help of parents, caregivers, teachers, and other adults in their lives. Here are some tips to help children:

  • Be a good role model. Children pick up on everything around them, and if you aren’t eating healthy, balanced meals and participating in daily activities, how can you expect them to?! Lead the way to a healthy lifestyle.
  • Get kids involved in the kitchen. No matter how young children are, there is a place for them in the kitchen. Whether they just hand you ingredients or help you stir them together, kids will learn that cooking is fun. If you order in or go out to dinner every night they’ll never learn the benefits of cooking at home.
  • Encourage activity. Instead of playing video games, children should be out on a field or in the backyard playing active games. Sign your children up for sports teams or go for a bike ride with them a few times a week. Again, if you’re active, they’ll be more inclined to get up and go!
  • Prepare balanced meals and snacks. Kids, just like adults, need a balanced plate of vegetables, lean protein, healthy carbs, and some healthy fat. Kid favorites like mac ‘n cheese can be made healthier by using whole wheat pasta, fresh cheese, and adding veggies and protein like broccoli and edamame.
  • Keep in mind that healthy doesn’t mean bland. Treats don’t have to be off the table completely and nutritious food can definitely be delicious. Remember this at all times!
  • Be supportive. Body image and weight issues start earlier than ever these days and kids need all the support they can get. Even if your child is overweight, it’s important to treat him or her the same as your other children and other kids. If you make changes to their diet, make changes to the diets of the rest of the household too. And if your child is being picked on because of his or her weight, don’t hesitate to go to the principal of the school to deal with the issue.

Childhood obesity is a complex issue and the above are only a handful of tips to help you and your family stay healthy. You can see some more tips in my childhood nutrition section. And find a registered dietitian in your area to help you and your family live a healthy, nutritious life.

*Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Curtin LR, Lamb MM, Flegal KM. Prevalence of high body mass index in US children and adolescents, 2007–2008. JAMA 2010;303(3):242–9.


Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

7 Things Parents Say That Cause Eating and Weight Problems in Kids Michelle May, Physician and author of Eat What You Love Love What You Eat, highlights a few things parents say which can have unintended consequences (@EatWhatYouLove)

Childhood Obesity Kia Robertson of Today I Ate a Rainbow suggests that prevention of childhood obesity should start with education and educating parents about basics of healthy eating by breaking it into achievable parts (@eatingarainbow)

Childhood Obesity: A Reality Check Dr Susan Rubin, founder of BSF, suggests we change our approach to looking at childhood obesity (@DrSuRu)

Childhood Obesity: Prevention Starts in Infancy Nutrition expert Sarah Fennel reminds us that prevention is the best cure and offers a few tips to raise healthy eaters (@FoodFunHealth)

Giving Our Children a Chance at Health Registered dietitian Susan Dopart offers tips to parents for taking charge of their child’s health in the world of over-processed “kid foods” (@smnutritionist)

Healthy School Campaigns Works on Creating Healthy Food Environments A report on Chicago’s Healthy School Campaigns (HFC), a non profit dedicated to creating a healthy food environment in schools

Lessons I have Learned as a Mom Registered dietitian Alysa Bajenaru shares some of the lessons she has learned that have helped her develop a good understanding of what it takes to feed her kids (@InspiredRD)

Looking for a New Trend in Childhood Obesity? Registered dietitian Elizabeth Rahavi of the IFIC brings the focus back on family in the debate about childhood obesity (@FoodInsight)

Losing Weight: It Starts in Your Head Registered dietitian Cindy Williams reminds us of the power of attitude and mindset in losing weight and controlling obesity (@nutritionchic)

Making the Grade Registered dietitian Sally Kuzemchak evaluates her son’s school programs on healthy eating and physical activity (@RMNutrition)

Obesity and GERD: A Family Affair Jan Gambino, author of Reflux 101, writes about the link between overweight and GERD

Parents, Let’s Take a Positive Approach to Childhood Obesity Registered dietitian Ashley Rosales from the Dairy Council of California encourages parents to take a positive approach in helping their kids build healthy habits

Revolutionize the Way Your Kids Eat in Five Easy Steps Sociologist Dr Dina Rose suggests we shift our focus from nutrition to eating habits if we are serious about solving childhood obesity (@DrDrRose)

Surprising Easy Solution for Preventing Childhood Obesity Research shows benefits of extended breastfeeding in reducing risk of childhood obesity (@TwinToddlersDad)

The Problem Behind Childhood Obesity Ken Whitman, Publisher of Organic Connections, points out that our national priorities concerning childhood obesity are misplaced and calls for a renewed focus on the health of our nations kids.

Yoga Gets Kids Moving Registered dietitian Danielle Omar has an interesting suggestion for solving childhood obesity — get your kids into yoga! (@2eatwellRD)

Share Your Thoughts

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  1. Great tips Jessica… I really think parents should focus on incorporating more exercise. When people ask me about their child’s weight, they start thinking of what foods to take out. I try to emphasize more exercise: playing, dancing, biking, throwing the ball, anything! I took my 2 year old outside to kick/throw the ball and although it doesn’t seem like ‘exercise’ from my perspective, it is for their little bodies! If we make it habit to have physically active play as part of our family lifestyle, we can really prevent obesity without even talking about it!

    1. I agree 100%. Physical activity should start at an early age as you have shown with your 2 year old! Thanks for commenting!

    1. Thanks! I agree completely. That’s why it’s important not to single out any one child in the family. Thanks for reading!

  2. Great tips for not only reducing the risk of overweight or obesity, but also developing lifelong habits for a healthy lifestyle.

    The first tip of being a role model is very important. I think it is critical to fully internalize it and not simply exhibit a “model” behavior when kids are around, while reversing to a different, so called “adult” behavior, otherwise. Kids can see through this duplicity easily and they will reflect in in their behavior when parents are around. This is not to say that everyone should suddenly change their lifestyle and somehow become “perfect”. The idea is that the whole family should adopt a lifestyle consistent with good health and happiness.

    Thanks for your insightful tips!

  3. This post shows the foundation to vibrant health. I think the key is in the lifestyle. Weight is second to good nutrition. What you designed is a way for people to take care of their family. Parents want to keep their children healthy.

    In today’s market consumers have a choice of shelf stable microwavable food products. They are formulated for profit. There is a big difference between food with a long shelf life and fresh prepared home cooked meals.

    1. Thank you for your post and reading my blog! There is absolutely a difference between processed food and that which is cooked fresh. The food is not the only difference though – food that is cooked at home is more often eaten together as a family, which provides children and parents time to converse and interact together. That is where modeling behavior comes in!