Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with one out of three kids now considered overweight or obese.
Obese children and adolescents are at greater risk for bone problems, for development of diabetes and for social and psychological problems such as poor self-esteem. In addition, overweight children are much more likely to become overweight adults unless they make lifestyle changes such as healthy eating habits and exercise.
The cutoff points, according to the CDC: If the child's (2 to 19 years old) BMI for age is between the 85th and 95th percentiles, he is considered overweight; if it is above 95th percentile, he is obese. You can go to the CDC Web site to learn more of how the childhood obesity is measured (www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood).
One of the best strategies to reduce childhood obesity is to improve the diet and exercise habits of your entire family. Here are some strategies you can follow to combat childhood obesity:
1. Limit recreational television and computer time to no more than two hours per day. Your child's activity doesn't have to be a structured program, but it is important to keep kids active throughout the day.
2. Don't do a clean-plate policy. Children are normally good at listening to their hunger cues. If kids are satisfied, don't force them to continue eating.
3. Limit or avoid sweet drinks not only soda, but juices. Consider that 12 ounces of juice has the same amount of calories as 12 ounces of soda, which is 180 calories. If your child drinks three cups of sweet drinks (juice or soda or Kool-Aid) over the course of a year, your child will consume roughly extra 142,000 calories. These 142,000 calories translates to 40 pounds!
4. Push fruits and vegetables. Parents should try to serve meals that are 50 percent fruits and vegetables, with smaller amounts of lean proteins and starches/grains. And did you know that young children may need to try a new food more than 10 times before they learn to like it? Don't give up if your child says she doesn't like a vegetable; try to put a little on the plate and ask your child to just taste it.
Damayanti is a registered dietitian at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation in San Joaquin County.