About one-third of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight, and a 2005 study showed that children today may have shorter life spans than their parents by two to five years.
Of those children who are currently obese, half of the adolescent females and one third of the teenage males will become morbidly obese by their early thirties.
Much of this bleak news stems from the fact that parents are not presenting as viable role models when it comes down to disciplined eating. A registered dietician who works at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York has gone as far to state that he has never seen a child who has better eating habits than the parents.
Healthy eating should be a family effort where all members of the household improve their diets and engage some kind of program of exercise.
Recommendations to Families for Living a More Healthy Lifestyle
The family should eat meals together as frequently as possible. Families who do this have better diets than those who do not, and meals tend to be higher in fiber, vegetables, fruit, and low-fat dairy.
Children should be encouraged to seek recipes in magazines, cookbooks, and online. It is important to get the children involved to better motivate them to make changes.
Not having soda in the home is also a useful tactic. If soda is available, children are less likely to drink low-fat or non-fat milk and not get the calcium, vitamin D, and potassium that they need.
Keep a minimal amount of snacks on hand and make sure they are healthy.
Get more physically involved as a unit and go walking, biking, or hiking.
Do not allow children to eat while watching television and engaging in any activity that involves a screen such as playing video games or using a computer. These behaviors are associated with a greater risk for obesity.
General Recommendations for Supporting Children
Watching television promotes obesity because it is often used as a replacement for physical activity. Television commercials often advertise junk foods and beverages as well.
Keep an eye on your own weight. Overweight children under the age of three who do not have overweight parents are at low risk for becoming overweight as adults. If just one parent is obese, the risk factor for the child becoming obese in adulthood doubles.
Do not allow your children to eat in their bedrooms.
Keep the focus on healthy eating and healthy living rather than gaining weight. Mothers who worry that their daughters might become overweight tend to have abnormal eating behaviors themselves.
Do not use food as a comfort tool and, perhaps most important of all, give your children the attention that they need and show them that you care. Children who do not have these simple needs met have higher rates of obesity.
University of Michigan Health System - http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/fightobesity.htm - accessed 7/28/12
USA Today - http://www.usatoday.com/yourlife/fitness/2010-11-09-parents-child-obesity_N.htm - accessed 7/28/12