According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, obesity is defined as more than 20 percent above ideal weight for a particular height and age. In the past two decades, obesity has doubled in U.S. children and tripled in adolescents. What are some of the causes of childhood obesity and how can parents help to curb this dangerous trend?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites eating too many calories and lack of exercise as the primary causes of excess weight gain in kids. However, the reason extends beyond the home. Look out, parents! Here are 5 environments potentially exposing your children to increased consumption and inactivity:
1. School. What’s on the menu for lunch? Does your child’s school offer few choices, limited to the likes of pizza, hamburgers, and even sugary drinks? If so, that only means it’s among the majority of middle and high schools out there.
What you can do: Attend PTA and school board meetings to advocate for a healthy lunch program at your child’s school. Until the change happens, pack a healthy lunch from home.
2. Grocery Store. The supermarket is the most convenient place to shop, but it’s loaded with processed foods and sugary products marketed directly to children. At some of the major grocery stores, you’d be hard-pressed to find a loaf of bread without high fructose corn syrup on the ingredients list.
What you can do: Stick to the perimeter of the grocery stores as much as possible. This is where the healthier choices, like fruits and vegetables are sold. When you do shop the aisles, read and compare labels before choosing.
3. Childcare Center. If you’re a working parent, chances are your younger child spends a considerable amount of time in a childcare center. Did you know that your state’s regulations may not require healthful eating or physical activity as part of its licensing requirements?
What you can do: Keep track of what your childcare center feeds the kids for snack and mealtime. Many centers list menus online or on bulletin boards, and some even opt for the organic route. Also, check your child’s daily schedule to ensure that outdoor play is a regular part of the center’s routine.
4. Restaurant. Too often, the kids’ menu at restaurants is limited to chicken nuggets and grilled cheese sandwiches. This doesn’t help the young palette develop a taste for dishes rich in whole grains and veggies.
What you can do: Order something healthy from the adult menu, and if the portion is large, share with your child.
5. Home. Kids are supposed to spend at least an hour a day in physical activity. However, according to KidsHealth.org, the average kid spends over 4 hours per day watching television.
What you can do: Limit screen time and encourage the kids to play outside and get active.
Did you know? Research shows a direct link between childhood obesity and dental cavities. One reason is that children who watch lots of TV tend to do so while snacking, particularly on high-fat, high-sugar foods.
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