Health and Mind: Tips to help children maintain a healthy weight

Published 12:30 pm Wednesday, August 30, 2023

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By Cara O’Neill

Clark County Health Department

In the United States, the number of children with obesity has continued to rise over the past two decades. Obesity in childhood poses immediate and future health risks.

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Parents, guardians, and teachers can help children maintain a healthy weight by helping them develop healthy eating habits and limiting calorie-rich temptations. You also want to help children be physically active, have reduced screen time, and get adequate sleep.

The goal for children who are overweight is to reduce the rate of weight gain while allowing normal growth and development. Children should not be placed on a weight reduction diet without the consultation of a health care provider.

Develop healthy eating habits

• To help children develop healthy eating habits:

• Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.

• Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products, including cheese and yogurt.

• Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.

• Encourage your family to drink lots of water.

• Limit sugary drinks.

• Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.

Remember that small changes every day can lead to success!

Limit calorie-rich temptations

Reducing the availability of high-fat and high-sugar or salty snacks can help your children develop healthy eating habits. Only allow your children to eat these foods rarely so they will truly be treats! Here are examples of easy-to-prepare, low-fat and low-sugar snacks that are 100 calories or less:

• One cup carrots, broccoli, or bell peppers with 2 tablespoons hummus.

• A medium apple or banana.

• One cup blueberries or grapes.

• One-fourth cup of tuna wrapped in a lettuce leaf.

• A few homemade oven-baked kale chips.

Help children stay active

In addition to being fun for children, regular physical activity has many health benefits, including:

• Strengthening bones.

• Decreasing blood pressure.

• Reducing stress and anxiety.

• Increasing self-esteem.

• Helping with weight management.

Children ages three through five years should be active throughout the day. Children and adolescents ages six through 17 should be physically active at least 60 minutes daily. Include aerobic activity, which is anything that makes their hearts beat faster. Also include bone-strengthening activities such as running or jumping and muscle-strengthening exercises such as climbing or push-ups.

Remember that children imitate adults. Start adding physical activity to your own routine and encourage your child to join you.

Reduce sedentary time

Although quiet time for reading and homework is fine, limit the time children watch television, play video games, or surf the web to no more than 2 hours per day. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend television viewing for children aged two years or younger. Instead, encourage children to find fun activities to do with family members or on their own that involve more activity.

Ensure adequate sleep

Too little sleep is associated with obesity, partly because inadequate sleep makes us eat more and be less physically active. Children need more sleep than adults, and the amount varies by age.