Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years. Almost 1 out of every 3 children is overweight or obese..
Part of the obesity problem is that many parents are giving their kids whatever they want to eat, or forcing them to eat everything on their plates. Many children also don't get enough exercise. Some studies have shown that half of all the calories that many American children consume are empty calories, which means they have no nutrition whatsoever.
Some dietitians and health care providers consider our current state of obesity to be a pandemic. We created this problem through a long list of misguided attempts at providing nutritional kids' lunches from our general lack of education about nutrition.
Overweight kids can end up with heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing problems such as sleep apnea, joint problems and other health concerns.
Obese kids have a greater risk of psychological problems, negative body image, poor self-esteem and even depression. And drastically overweight children have a greater chance of becoming drastically overweight adults.
How to prevent obesity?
Don't serve your children more than you think they will eat. And never force them to eat everything on their plates.
LET YOUR CHILD DECIDE: DON'T INSIST..
Children under the age of 3 don't have a way to tell parents "I've had enough to eat." So they often play with their food. Don't force them to eat. Children ages 3 to 5 will usually stop eating when they're full.
Replace unhealthy between-meal snacks such as greasy potato chips, loaded with salt, and cookies, loaded with sugar, with kid-tested healthy snacks like raw vegetables and dip, fresh fruit, a small helping of peanuts or other nuts, or peanut butter and crackers. You can also give them a small piece of natural cheese. Limit fruit juices, which can be loaded with sugar.
The American Heart Association recommends that total fat intake should be no more than 35 percent of calories for children 2 to 3 years old, and between 25 and 35 percent for children and adolescents ages 4 to 18. Most of those fats should come from polyunsaturated and monosaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils.
You can make sure you don't overfeed your kids by counting their calories--not every day, but by monitoring their eating over a week or so to see about how many calories they're taking in. Children a year old need about 900 calories a day. Toddlers need about 1,000 to 1,100 calories a day. For preschoolers, about 1,200 to 1,400 calories is sufficient.
For school-age children, 1,600 to 1,800 calories will give them the energy they need to take them through their day. Adolescents must have about 1,800 to 2,200 calories a day.
How can you make sure that most of those calories are from a list of healthy foods and not junk food? By introducing kids to nutritious food at an early age, and continuing to serve it to them.
Our experience shows that kids will, indeed, eat healthy food--even fruits and vegetables--if it's prepared correctly.