Childhood obesity is a national problem

While some states including Michigan have seen a recent decline in childhood obesity, the percentage of children who are overweight or obese is still at an all-time high.

Why should we be concerned about childhood obesity? When we look at children, we’re looking at our future and when children are unhealthy, our future is at risk. Overweight or obesity increases the risk of developing:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Certain cancers
  • Social issues like isolation or self-esteem

Parents and caregivers of children can help overweight children adopt a healthier weight by encouraging a healthier lifestyle. Children should not be placed on diets. Instead plan healthy meals and snacks including fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Make physical activity fun and a part of everyday routines.

Here are some additional tips from Michigan State University Extension nutrition experts for developing a healthy child:

  • Cut down on the number of times a week your child eats away from home at a restaurant, this includes fast food.
  • Choose healthier food choices at fast food restaurants. Most offer fruit and veggie options.
  • Watch portion sizes. Even child size meals are high in salt and fat.
  • Cook and eat more meals at home.
  • Choose fruit and veggies as snacks over chips and candy.
  • Save high fat, high sugar snacks and desserts for special occasions.
  • Limit high sugar drinks including sodas and juice. Encourage drinking low-fat milk and water.
  • Plan outdoor activities that include walking, jumping and running.

If you’re concerned about your child’s weight, make an appointment to talk with their health care provider. You might also want to talk to a dietician who can address your child’s individual needs. Contact your local MSU Extension office for nutrition workshops available in your area.

Don’t give up! Changing food and physical activity habits takes time. Set small goals every day and soon you and your child will be living a healthier lifestyle.

For other topics about health and nutrition contact your local MSU Extension office.

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