Top Ways to Prevent Childhood Obesity

Top Ways to Prevent Childhood Obesity
Photo by Nick Abrams / Unsplash

Childhood obesity is a global epidemic and a major problem in the United States, which poses a serious public health challenge. One in three American kids are overweight or obese. This is something that no child should have to go through. There are multiple causes to childhood obesity, such as, environmental toxins, epigenetics, physical inactivity, eating highly-addictive processed foods, and a poor birth environment. An individualized, holistic approach should be used to prevent and manage childhood obesity.

Childhood obesity is a complex multifactorial disease that is linked to premature death and disability in adulthood, and is a leading risk factor for preventable chronic diseases and cancers. Obesity rates have skyrocketed worldwide alongside the significant increase in cases of mental health disorders. Unfortunately, obesity is a crisis that affects people of all races and ages, both men and women, and people of any socioeconomic status or education level. It is very important to be aware of this and how to prevent childhood obesity.

Ways to Prevent Childhood Obesity

There are multiple factors that contribute to childhood obesity and each case is unique. A holistic, functional approach should be used to find and treat the root cause. There are a multitude of ways to reduce the risk of developing obesity; however, you must take full control of what you can and lead kids by example. Some ways to prevent childhood obesity include daily physical activity, cooking meals at home, eliminating processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages, understanding nutrition labels, eating a healthy breakfast, limiting screen time, and consuming a nutrient-dense diet rich in healthy fats and proteins. Other effective ways include serving appropriate portion sizes, promoting outdoor hobbies, using less plastic ware food containers, and no nighttime eating. Preventing childhood obesity is simple, just not easy. Five top ways to reduce the risk of childhood obesity development include elimination of sugary drinks, encouraging daily physical activity, promoting optimal sleep, providing a structured environment, and taking full responsibility.

Eliminate Sugary Drinks + “Empty” Calories

One of the best ways to prevent childhood obesity is to eliminate liquid sugar calories. Added sugars, high fructose corn syrup, and trans fats are a major problem in the modern day diet. These types of sugary drinks and highly processed foods are considered “empty” calories because they provide zero nutritional value. Excessive consumption can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, and metabolic issues throughout kids’ entire lives. Fertility issues and fatty liver disease are now being seen in teenagers, which is far from normal. The average kid consumes 270 calories of sugar-sweetened beverages, which is 10 to 15% of their daily calorie intake. Experiment with healthy options and avoid giving children soda, sports drinks, juice boxes, Kool-Aid, and energy drinks, while limiting refined carbs, such as, crackers, pretzels, chips, and pancakes. Encourage kids to drink coconut water and eat oranges, watermelon, almond flour pancakes, and grass fed beef jerky as snacks. Elimination of sugary drinks is key in the prevention of childhood obesity.

Incorporate Daily Physical Activity

Physical activity and exercise play a crucial role in childhood obesity, as it is beneficial in its prevention and promotion of healthy habits for the future. As a parent, you lead by example; therefore, having a personal active lifestyle and including your kids into those behaviors will encourage them to be more active. There are many activities that can be penciled into daily schedules such as playing outside, swimming, going to the gym, joining sports clubs, and participating in after school activities. It can sound overwhelming, but it can be something as simple as taking your kids to the park, signing them up for soccer, going on walks after dinner, or going for bike rides in the morning, the importance is to build a routine. Routines create patterns and habits, which can be carried on for life. Having an active lifestyle as a child is as crucial to preventing childhood obesity as it is limiting sugary drinks.

Promote Nightly Optimal Sleep

Sleep is a vital component to a healthy, fulfilling life. A good night’s sleep is absolutely essential in the prevention of childhood obesity because it promotes balanced hormones, increased cognitive function, and better mental health. Poor sleep leads to insulin resistance and weight gain, and sleep deprivation activates the inflammatory process and starts the metabolic disruption. Kids need at least 9, up to 12 hours of sleep per night. Develop a bedtime routine for kids, turn off all screens two hours before bed, and leave electronic devices outside of the bedroom. Encourage kids to shower and read a book, or listen to music before bed. Also, remember to make sure their environment is dark and cool. Ensuring kids get the proper amount sleep each night is critical in preventing weight gain and reducing the risk of developing obesity and chronic diseases in adulthood.

Provide A Structured Environment

Along with the elimination of sugary drinks, daily physical activity, and optimal sleep, kids thrive in a structured environment. Create a safe environment with regular routines and rules that kids can follow, learn from and be supported in. Teach kids what is expected of them and why they’re doing certain things. Feed kids a healthy breakfast rich in proteins and healthy fats, and remove ultra- processed foods from the pantry. Cook more meals at home, involve kids in the cooking process, and encourage them to give their input. Also, bring kids to the grocery store and show them healthy food options. A structured environment provides consistency and helps kids to do the appropriate behaviors and activities, which reduces the risk of developing childhood obesity.

Take Full Parental Responsibility

Overweight and obese kids experience anxiety, stress, and trauma over their weight and how their family and peers perceive them, so never put kids down about it and give them full support. Parents will need to assume absolute personal responsibility over their health and their child's. Kids rely on teaching, encouragement, and structure provided by their parents. Give kids a nutrient-dense diet rich in healthy fats and proteins, and eliminate sugary drinks from the home. Make family dinners and daily exercise a priority. Most importantly, lead by example in the prevention of childhood obesity, and kids will follow.

Final Thoughts

Childhood Obesity is a multifactorial, complex disease and a global epidemic. An individualized, holistic approach should be used to prevent, treat, and manage obesity. Five key ways to prevent childhood obesity include the removal of sugar-sweetened beverages, encouraging daily physical activity, ensuring optimal sleep, providing a structured environment, and taking full parental responsibility. A third of American children are overweight or obese. These kids need our help, as they rely on adults for basic needs, patience, support, education, and structure. It is of the upmost importance for parents to provide a positive, safe, and structured environment for kids to learn and grow in. Take small steps today to make a difference in and combat the crisis of childhood obesity.

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This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.