Preventing Childhood Obesity August 04 2008

As a parent, the odds are good that your child’s safety is your highest priority.  In fact, child safety is one of the highest priorities of our society.

And rightfully so, without our children we are all lost. So to keep our children safe we make sure they wear protective gear, read warning labels, and talk about strangers. But what about living a healthy lifestyle, kids health and nutrition for kids?

Excercise and a balanced diet help kids stay fit and healthy for life!

Childhood Obesity: A Growing Concern

One of the fastest growing threats to the health and safety of America’s children is overweight and childhood obesity.  According to data gathered between 1999 and 2002, obesity or overweight was seen in

  • 15.8% of children ages 6 to 11 (±1.1)
  • 16.1% of adolescents ages 12 to 19 (±0.8)

Compare this with data collected between 1971 and 1974 which found obesity or overweight in

  • 4.0% of children ages 6 to 11
  • 6.1% of adolescents  ages 12 to 19

That’s a 10% increase in just 30 years.

Problems Associated with Obesity in Children

Aside from the common health risks such as diabetes and high blood pressure associated with obesity in adults, there are several emotional and social implications linked to childhood obesity. Overweight and obese youth

  • Are more likely to suffer bullying
  • Have less self-esteem
  • Are more likely to develop behavioral and learning problem
  • Have an increased risk for developing depression

For these reasons it is important to focus on lifestyle choices when discussing kids health and safety instead of just helmets, knee pads, and lead-based paint.

As with other lifestyle choices, children learn healthy habits (and unhealthy ones) from their parents, so one of the first steps to encouraging a healthy lifestyle in your child is to demonstrate what healthy living is.

How to Promote a Healthy Diet for Children

You can start by

  • Purchasing healthy foods and avoiding purchasing unhealthy foods
  • Limiting the number of sweetened beverages you consume (including sweetened fruit juice)
  • Reducing “recreational screen time” (computers, TV, etc.) to less than 2 hours a day.
  • Following a regular exercise program
  • Finding physical activities for you and your family to enjoy together
  • Avoiding behaviors designed to reduce activity (taking elevators instead of stairs, etc)

For your child, you can start by

  • Selecting healthy recipes for your meals (e.g. baked chicken instead of fried)
  • Turning meal times into events or “family time”
  • Avoiding eating in front of the television which encourages “mindless munching”
  • Teaching kids about anatomy of the human body so they understand how the body works.
  • Teaching your child about nutrition for kids using games like Healthy Hurdles and Food Factory.

A healthy diet is just the half of it, though.  It is also important that children be active. 

  • Limit your child’s “recreational screen time” to less than 2 hours a day
  • Encourage physical activities that they enjoy
  • Teachers can encourage physical activities in the classroom that are fun, such as yoga using yoga cards.

Finally, avoid common pitfalls such as fad diets and quick fixes. Children will respond better to and are more likely to incorporate changes in their lifestyle if they are introduced gradually. The child should never be singled out or made to believe they are being punished. This could result in resentment or rebellion. Instead, changes should be made as a family and obtainable goals should be set for each family member.

By Dagan Henderson


  • National Center For Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2004 with Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans. Hyattsville, Maryland.  2004.