By Megan Loomis, MD
September is here! Kids are back in school, days are getting shorter and (thankfully) the air is getting a little cooler! September is also National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. One in three children in the US are overweight or obese, a number that has tripled in recent decades. Overweight and obese children are more likely to develop hypertension and diabetes, which means we are seeing these “adult” diseases more and more in children.
As a mother of three growing boys, it can be difficult to keep them clean and dressed, much less make sure they eat a healthy and balanced diet! I’m sure many parents share the frustration that can occur around meal times. I wanted to share a few practical ideas to help your children develop healthy bodies and minds:
1 As a rule, ”juice” is never healthy. Despite what the label says, fruit juices and vegetable juices are very high in sugar. Just avoid them altogether and your child’s dentist will be happy as well! Water and milk are the best fluids for kids. Talk to your doctor about what type of milk and how much is best for your child.
2 Give your child healthy options to eat with every meal. Of course most families, like mine, occasionally order a pizza or grab fast food for convenience. Put some fresh raw carrots or broccoli on the plate too, and remember to choose water or milk over the juice box!
3 Fruit is a great option for between meal snacks and even dessert! Take advantage of what’s in season and keep a bowl of it handy to grab for a healthier snack.
4 Your child should be getting at least one hour of physical activity daily. Don’t count on this to happen at school. Go for a walk as a family after dinner!
The very most important thing to do to help your child maintain a healthy weight is to model healthy behaviors for them. As always, we here at the Family Health Centers are here to help. We perform a “Pediatric Healthy Weight Assessment” on all children once a year, which may help us identify children who are more at risk to become overweight or obese. We will work with you and your child to come up with a plan together to make improvements.
If you are interested in more information about nutrition and your child, check out healthychildren.org. There are sections on nutrition, fitness, emotional health, as well as screen-time guidelines. Happy September from The Family Health Centers!