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Categories > Children’s Health > Raising healthy kids

Destined for obesity?

Not too long ago, obesity and related conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes were problems only adults had to worry about. But with approximately one in five children carrying extra weight, today’s kids are facing the same serious health issues as their parents and grandparents.

Behind the weight gain

In rare cases, medical problems such as endocrine disorders may cause a child to be overweight. And some kids may be genetically predisposed to gain weight. But most children aren’t destined to be fat. More often, an unhealthy diet and an inactive lifestyle are to blame.

Slim-down solutions

If you’re concerned about your child’s weight, talk with his or her pediatrician or ask for a referral to a nutritionist. You can also try a few of these lifestyle adjustments:

  • Stock up on staples. Offer a wide variety of healthy foods so children can pick and choose which foods they like. Keep the fridge stocked with apples, low-fat cheese and other easy-to-eat foods. Or take your children grocery shopping. Involving them in the experience can make them feel like they have more control over what they eat.
  • Make it a family affair. Don’t single out an overweight child by making him or her eat healthy fare while the rest of the family has burgers and fries. You should all be eating healthy foods. Be a role model!
  • Turn off the TV. Eating in front of the television encourages mindless noshing, and spending too much time watching cartoons or playing video games takes away from active pursuits. If your child loves video games, suggest interactive games that get players moving.
  • Let there be snacks. Allowing children small snacks such as fresh or dried fruit, nuts, low-fat yogurt and air-popped popcorn is a great way to add nutrients to their diets and prevent overeating at mealtimes.
  • Slow it down. Teach them to eat slowly and watch for the stomach’s “full” signal. With this in mind, don’t force children to clean their plates.
  • Skip the rewards. Don’t reward children with candy for good behavior. Likewise, don’t attempt to curb bad behavior with the promise of a favorite dessert.
  • Don’t hold back. Unless your pediatrician says otherwise, never limit the amount of food children eat—it could interfere with their development.
  • Go outside. Take walks as a family after dinner, play catch or miniature golf or do something fun together. Experts recommend an hour of activity on most or all days.
  • Be supportive. Let your children know that you love them no matter what.

For more great ideas about how you can get your kids active and eating right, check out the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s “We Can!” Web site at wecan.nhlbi.nih.gov.