It’s a Problem, Especially in King County
Childhood obesity in the U.S. is growing at an alarming rate. According to the CDC, since 1980, the obesity rate among U.S. children and adolescents has tripled. In fact, the most recent CDC statistics indicate that nationwide approximately 17% (or 12.7 million) of children and adolescents between ages 2 and 19 are obese. In King County, CDC statistics estimate nearly 22% of youths are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight.
Lifestyle Changes Can Have the Most Significant Impact
Most children become obese because of a combination of poor diet, lack of physical activity and other lifestyle issues. In rare cases, however, a child’s excess weight may be because of a specific illness.
- Get your child moving. Children need at least 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity every day. This can include fun aerobic activities like playing tag and jumping rope for younger children; extracurricular activities such as organized sports or dance are a great way for school-aged children and teens to stay active. Being active can also be a fun family time. Try taking a family walk, dancing, biking, or playing an outdoor game together as often as you can.
- Emphasize fruits and vegetables. Following a healthier diet can help prevent or reverse obesity. Keep soda and chips out of the house, or have them only on very special occasions. Try serving your children kid-friendly snacks with fruits and vegetables available around the house instead of chips, crackers and cookies. Examples of healthy snacks include fruit smoothies, raw veggies with yogurt dip, and celery with peanut butter. If fresh produce isn’t available or too expensive, look for frozen choices without added sugar.
- Watch portion sizes. Over the last few decades, food portions in both grocery stores and restaurants have ballooned. In fact, some restaurants now serve single entrees that exceed 2,000 calories, more than most adults need for an entire day! Make sure your children’s food intake stays within the USDA recommendations for appropriate meal sizes for each food group. One serving of grains, for example, is just a half-cup of cooked spaghetti or one regular slice of bread. Half a small chicken breast and a small, lean hamburger patty each count as one protein serving.
- Set the example for your kids. Studies show that kids pay attention to their parents’ actions. Children and teenagers who observe their parents making an effort to eat healthy and exercise on a regular basis are more likely to adopt these behaviors themselves. In short, healthy habits in parents are more likely to lead to healthy habits as a family overall.