Obesity Prevention and Treatment

Parenting in the Early Years

Obesity Prevention and Treatment

Obesity has become one of the most important health concerns for our children as well as our adults. It is estimated that up to 30 percent of children are either overweight or obese.

Obesity contributes to many health problems over time, including diabetes, arthritis, liver failure, heart disease, vascular disease, hypertension, some cancers and mental health disturbance. We know there are many factors including genetics, metabolism, height, behavior, and living environment that impact on growth and weight gain.

Obesity is important to prevent, and difficult to treat. The most successful intervention for staying at a healthy weight and avoiding obesity, is prevention.

Strategies that encourage healthy eating behaviors, regular physical activity, and reduced sedentary behaviors are felt to be key factor in maintaining a healthy weight. Forming good diet and exercise habits at an early age will help prevent and reduce obesity as a problem.

If you are concerned with your child's weight or eating patterns be sure to discuss this with your child's physician. We actively discourage going on a "diet" but want to emphasize the importance of establishing healthy eating and physical exercise patterns.

Healthy Lifestyles for Children

Following are some suggestions to start on the right road.

Infants

  • Breast milk and formula should be the only foods for 4-6 months
  • Never force-feed. Stop when the child stops or no longer seems interested in feeding.
  • Do not to feed for every fussy spell. Infants cry to communicate their needs and discomfort. Though feeding may calm a crying infant the real cause of fussing may be a dirty diaper, fatigue, wanting to be held, needing to burp, feeling overheated or being cold to mention a few. Avoid establishing the pattern to feed for discomfort. Feed the infant only for hunger signals.
  • No television for infants
  • Start solids at age 4-6 months
  • Water may be used as a supplement for older infants, but is generally not needed
  • Do not feed juice or diluted juice. Juice is mother nature's liquid candy and a big source of empty calories.

Toddlers

  • Food and snacks should be given only at the table where the family eats
  • Stop bottles around 12-15 months age
  • Do not feed juice, soda or sugar-containing drinks. Milk and water are good drinks.
  • At meals, provide a variety of nutritious foods but do not require the child to eat everything
  • Set a good example by eating nutritious food
  • When snacks are served, set out a portion at the table and put the container away. Eat snacks only at the kitchen table.
  • Never eat with the TV on or in front of a TV. No TV before two years of age.
  • Eat together as a family as often as possible
  • Begin regular exercise such as playing outside, going for walks, or any activity that involves moving around
  • Be a good role model in your own eating and exercise patterns

Children and Adolescents

  • Continue to limit food to the kitchen table, never in front of a TV or computer
  • Continue to offer a variety of good foods
  • Require the child to try new foods, especially vegetables and fruits
  • Continue to set out a snack portion and put the container away
  • If junk food is not in the house, it cannot be eaten
  • Continue to avoid soda, juice, and sugar drinks
  • Continue to set a good example
  • Never put a TV or computer in the child's bedroom
  • Limit combined TV, computer, and video games to two hours each day. Almost any other activity is better for a child's physical and mental health.
  • Continue unstructured activity time and encourage physical activity. This is an age where many children are interested and become involved in sports.
  • Children need adequate sleep, generally 8-9 hours for older children. Less sleep seems to encourage obesity.

Good Food Choices

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables are almost always good food choices. The strategy is to have as much color to the food as possible. White foods (except milk) tend to be less healthy.
  • Milk (1 percent or skim) is a good drink for children older than 2 years. Aim at 3 glasses a day. Encourage drinking plain water which is an excellent thirst quencher and aim at 5 glasses a day.
  • Starches that are whole grain or other whole foods (fresh potatoes) are usually better than white flour starches
  • Meats should be boiled or broiled, not fried
  • Peel skin from chicken
  • Most fast foods are high fat, high calorie, and less nutritious. Read the information about fast foods that you eat
  • Many packaged foods can be high fat. Generally look for food with less than 30 percent of calories from fat.

View healthy and delicious recipes for kids

If you have questions about healthy eating contact your doctor's office and they can direct you to proper information.