Good news for Michigan!

Childhood obesity rates from 2008-2011 decreased in 18 states, including Michigan.

Obesity rates in children have been climbing for several decades, so the recent news that the obesity rates have declined, made headline news around the nation. Does this mean the problem is solved or that parents no longer need to monitor their children’s health? Absolutely not! If you feel that your child may weigh more than children of other comparable height and age, talk to your doctor or pediatrician. Children should not be put on weight loss diets unless directed by a healthcare professional.

If you’re child’s physician determines it would be in their interest to lose some weight, follow these steps suggested by Michigan State University Extension to help your child achieve a healthier weight:

  • Plan healthy meals based on the My Plate method. MyPlate’s children section offers lots of tips and healthy advice for parents and caregivers.
  • Watch portion sizes. While we don’t want to limit the amount of food a child needs, we also need to be aware of just how much food is considered a portion. MyPlate can help you determine portion sizes and daily amounts for different age groups.
  • Encourage your children to fill up on fruits and vegetables for snacks, instead of higher calorie snacks such as chips and candy, which are also often higher in fat, salt and sugar.
  • Make water the drink of choice. Not only is it calorie free, it’s an essential nutrient for good health.
  • Cook and eat more often at home. The average family eats out at least three to four times a week and those choices are often higher in fat, salt and calories. Preparing the same foods at home allows you to control how much fat and salt is consumed.

In addition to planning and preparing healthier meals, families also want to look at how physically active they are. Here are some tips for increasing physical activity to help burn off extra calories:

  • Schedule time during the day and on weekends to provide some active play time. Kids need to run, jump and climb to stay healthy. Family walks, bike rides and old-fashioned games like hopscotch and tag are fun ways to stay healthy.
  • Be a good role model. Kids are watching us, so if we’re active they are more likely to be active too. Better yet, join in the activity with them.
  • Check with your child’s school. How often is recess scheduled and how long is it? Does your child participate in gym class? If your school is lacking in physical activity opportunities, attend the parent support meetings and encourage school boards to make daily physical activity a priority.
  • Limit screen-time – the amount of time your child spends with a computer, television or video game. No more than two hours a day should be spent engaging in screen-time. The remaining time should involve active play.

Pick one of these ideas to start with as a goal to helping your child achieve a healthier weight. If your child’s physician determines your child should lose some weight, make the discussion based on helping the family become healthier – not for the child to lose weight. Soon you’ll become one of Michigan’s new success stories too!

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