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Categories > Children’s Health > Nutrition and weight management

For adults only?

Our children are growing up fast—and falling victim to health problems that used to affect only adults. Follow these tips to protect your child:


About 17 percent of children ages 6 to 19 are obese—roughly triple the number that were obese in 1980, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Part of the problem is that parents don’t always recognize when their child is overweight. The next time you visit the pediatrician, ask him or her if your child is too heavy and what you should do about it.

To prevent obesity, serve more fruits, veggies and whole-grain foods. Watch portion sizes and limit saturated fats and sugar. Encourage kids to drink water and low-fat or nonfat milk (kids under age 2 should still drink whole milk). Build activity into your child’s day and limit screen time to two hours a day.

If your child is obese, don’t put him or her on a weight-loss diet. Instead, you want to stop or slow the rate of weight gain, so he or she can grow into his or her weight.

Type 2 diabetes

Weight problems go hand in hand with type 2 diabetes, a condition in which cells become resistant to the hormone insulin or the body doesn’t make enough insulin.

According to the CDC, type 2 diabetes is becoming more common among kids. And about one in six adolescents have pre-diabetes, a condition that often leads to diabetes.

The same problems that lead to obesity cause type 2 diabetes: poor eating habits, inactivity and a family history of the disease. Take steps to lower your child’s risk of obesity and he or she will also be less likely to get diabetes.

High cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that builds up in arteries and leads to heart attacks and stroke. And 10 percent of adolescents have total cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dL, which is high even for adults.

High cholesterol has no symptoms, but if your child is overweight and has a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease, he or she should be tested between ages 2 and 10.

If your child has high cholesterol, talk to a dietitian about ways to help him or her eat healthier foods. Also encourage activity, which can raise HDL, the good cholesterol, and lower LDL, the bad kind. If diet and activity don’t work, your pediatrician may prescribe medication.

Kidney stones

Kidney stones are small masses made of minerals and acid salts. They can obstruct the urinary tract and block urine flow, leading to tremendous pain, often in the lower back or abdomen. They can also cause nausea, vomiting or blood in the urine. Stones that don’t pass may require shock wave therapy or surgery.

Risk factors include low fluid intake and eating too many salty and processed foods. To prevent stones, encourage your child to drink plenty of water. Your pediatrician may recommend cutting back on dairy, sweet potatoes, soy and other foods that can be problematic.

Overuse injuries

Some 30 million kids participate in athletics, and every year, about 3.5 million kids ages 14 and under are treated for sports injuries.

Repeated motions cause many injuries, often the result of constant training in a single sport. Immature bones, lack of rest after an injury and poor training make kids susceptible to overuse injuries. Have your child take at least one or two days off each week and insist on a two-to-three-month break from a particular sport during the year. And watch that your tiny Tiger Woods doesn’t increase any aspect of training—time, repetitions or distance—by more than 10 percent a week.