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7 steps parents can take to fight childhood obesity

Obesity in the U.S. continues to pose a big health risk. Although rates in childhood obesity have started to come down in recent years, it is still a problem that must be addressed. The Center for Disease Control and the Journal of the American Medical Association state that the obesity rate among children between 2 and 19 years old is an alarming 16.9 percent. That rate more than doubles for adults ages 20 and older. Recent studies have found that an estimated 80 percent of overweight children will be obese when they reach adulthood.

There are steps parents can take to fight childhood obesity
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Fortunately, there are steps parents can take to help control their children's weight, and give them a healthier adulthood.

Here are seven things parents can do to help their children develop good health habits, and maintain a healthier weight.

1. Be More Active

The American Heart Association and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends that teens get a minimum of 4 hours of physical activity a week. That's less than 35 minutes a day. Unfortunately, many teens are falling well short of that target.

One step you can take to get your child to be more active is to limit the amount of time they spend playing video games and watching TV. These two things are the biggest contributors to children's lack of physical activity.

2.Cut Out Sugary Beverages

For many children sugary soft drinks make up the majority of what they drink. Most diet and nutrition experts suggest water as a healthier choice. While it is OK to occasionally have a sweet drink as a treat, it should be the exception and not the rule. The excessive sugars in beverages are just empty calories. They are a big contributor to the daily calorie count, but they do not have any nutritional value. Even drinks that are fortified with vitamins delivery too many calories.

3. Get Plenty of Sleep

Research done at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health shows that there is an association between childrens sleep habits and weight gain. Children that do not get the recommended amount of sleep tend to be heavier. Health experts recommend pre-teen and teenage children require about 9 hours of sleep a night. Most children are not meeting that goal.

4. Take Time For Breakfast

Breakfast is the meal that is most often skipped. However, experts agree that it is the most important meal of the day. A nourishing breakfast fuels your body so you are more alert, and have more energy. In addition, research has found that skipping breakfast actually make weight management more difficult.

This doesn't mean that you have to fix a big breakfast every morning. Even a bowl of cereal will help get the day off to a better start. Rather than allowing your child to eat high sugar cereals, choose a cereal that is lower in sugar and higher in fiber. Also, whole milk is more filling than skim milk, and does not pose health risks, as was once thought.

5. Healthy Snacks

Sometimes growing children desire a snack to hold them over between meals, which isn't a bad thing. What is important is that the snack you give them is not just empty calories. snacks like candy, cookies, or chips are high in sugar and do not deliver much in the way of nutrients. A better option is a piece of fruit or veggie sticks. These types of snacks deliver more vitamins and minerals, and they are also higher in fiber.

6. Teach Your Children

One complaint parents have is that their children will not eat the healthier options. They say their children prefer the less healthy high sugar and high fat foods. It is important for you to take the time to teach your children why some foods are better for them than others. Food preferences are largely a matter of habit. While your child may resist the healthier snacks at first, over time their food tastes will change.

One step parents can take to help establish new food habits is to model the behavior you want to see in your children. If your child sees you eating healthier foods, and steering away from junk foods, they will be more likely to buy into the changes you are trying to make.

7. Focus On Health, Not On Weight

It's important to remember that every child is different. Focusing too much on weight can make a child overly self conscious, which could lead to eating disorders. More than 10 million women and 1 million men have been diagnosed with eating disorders in the U.S. This doesn't take into consideration the millions more that have an unhealthy preoccupation with their weight and body shape.

A much better approach is to focus on overall health. By ensuring that you are making healthy food choices, controlling portion sizes, and seeing that your children are getting adequate sleep and physical activities, your child's weight maintenance will probably not be an issue

Remember, a healthy lifestyle for your child will help set habits that will lead to healthier adulthood. Give you r child the best possible start in life by making sure they have a healthy childhood.

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