August 31, 2014

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Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is a  tough issue to tackle and more widespread than many Americans may realize.

Studies show that nationwide, 32 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 are overweight or obese.  In Kentucky that number climbs to 37 percent giving us the second highest rate of childhood obesity in the United States.

A number of factors amplify the problem.  Lack of physical activity and poor eating habits are two principal causes.

Here are some guidelines to help your child achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

1.  Offer fruits and vegetables every day.  Prepare them so they are tender but still crisp or offer raw vegetables as an alternative.  Ask children to help prepare vegetable recipes. They are more likely to try new foods when they are involved in cooking them.

2. Invest in family mealtimes.  Regular mealtimes promote better nutrition.  For families that sit down together to eat, this means more fruits and vegetables, fewer fried foods and fewer high-sugar soft drinks.  When children get the nutrition they need, it helps cut down on the desire for “empty” calorie foods.

3. Physical Activity Suggestions:
a. Encourage noncompetitive family sports such as jumping rope, Frisbee disc, tag, or hide-and-seek.
b. After a family meal, take the family outside. Go for a 10-minute walk or bike ride. It will help keep the family from settling in front of a screen for the rest of the evening.
c. Even if you cannot go outdoors, you can still do a little physical activity.  Put on music and dance or check out an exercise video from your local library. 
d. Perhaps most importantly, make sure that your children see you participate in some physical activity.  If you do not take physical activity seriously, how can you expect them to?

Children with excessive body weight are more likely to be overweight as adults which can lead to higher risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other illnesses.

One way to find out if your child is at risk for excessive weight is to determine his or her Body Mass Index (BMI).  This formula is a measure of weight for height taking into account total body makeup.  Ask your pediatrician to assess your child’s BMI, discuss the results and any additional steps that need to be taken.

For more information about keeping your children healthy, contact the Pendleton County Cooperative Extension Service.