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Childhood Obesity

Helping Kids Achieve a Healthy Weight

If your child is overweight, you might think he or she will eventually grow into those extra pounds. But this isn’t always the case.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity affects one in five kids and teens. There are a number of factors that contribute to this issue: increased screen time, decreased physical activity, fewer home-cooked meals and bigger portion sizes, to name a few. Regardless of the cause, it’s important to address it as early as possible to help prevent obesity and long-term health issues, as well as social and emotional problems.

Be proactive and make sure your child gets an annual physical exam. During these appointments, your child’s doctor will check height and weight, and calculate body mass index to compare against the curve for his or her age. It’s also a good time to talk about nutrition and physical activity to help your child start building healthy habits.

At home, you can help your child work toward a healthy weight. Here are a few tips:

  • Focus on one thing at a time – Making too many changes can be overwhelming. Instead, let your child pick one thing to work on at a time. For example, eating a serving of vegetables at every meal.
  • Eat breakfast – It’s the most important meal of the day and helps boost metabolism. It’s also important for kids to have some fuel in them before going to school.
  • Limit junk food – Because it’s unrealistic to completely eliminate junk food from a kid’s diet, instead focus on cutting back. A good goal is limiting junk food to two or three times per week.
  • Stick with water or milk – While you’re at it, cut back on juice, soda and coffee drinks. Avoid replacing sugary drinks with sugar-free alternatives as this can stimulate the appetite and sweet preference which causes weight gain. It’s best to focus on drinking more water.
  • Watch portion sizes – Make vegetables and fruit the star of your child’s meals. Instead of having a heaping plate of spaghetti with meatballs for dinner, serve a large salad with smaller portions of pasta on the side.
  • Make it a family effort – Avoid treating your kids differently and serving a special “diet” dinner to one kid. Instead, have everyone eat the same thing. Parents and older siblings can serve as healthy role models and make it a positive environment.
  • Exercise together – If parents are sedentary, kids tend to be the same. Instead of falling into this trap, get active together as a family. Take a walk around your neighborhood after eating dinner, go on a Saturday morning bike ride or even tackle a list of chores together.

Edward-Elmhurst Health is available to help your kids achieve a healthy weight. We have primary care providers, including pediatricians, who specialize in obesity. Endeavor Health® Weight Management is available to adolescents ages 16 and up. This program helps teens achieve and maintain a healthy weight through medical management and lifestyle recommendations.

Learn more about childhood obesity and how to help kids achieve a healthy weight. Schedule an appointment with a pediatrician or family medicine physician online or call 630-527-6363.
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