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Protect your child from obesity

Prevent childhood obesity | UPMC Health PlanObesity is a major challenge for many people in this country, including children. The federal government has designated September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. A recent report showed that nearly a third of U.S. kids are overweight or obese. This puts them at risk for countless health problems now and later in life. What can we do about this? Even if you’re not a parent, you can be a strong role model for the children in your life by maintaining a healthy weight.

Below are four proven strategies that may help prevent childhood obesity. Try them yourself. They may help you lose a few pounds as well.

  • Eat dinner as a family. Studies show that kids who regularly eat meals with their families tend to have healthier diets and lower obesity rates. Whereas when kids eat on their own, they are more likely to eat unhealthy food and pay less attention to their hunger levels. This can lead to mindless overeating.
  • Choose the menu. If given the option to plan the menu, kids often tend to hot dogs, potato chips, and the like. So it’s better for you to keep control of the options. Also, try hard to stick with your healthy food plan, even if it sometimes results in your child leaving uneaten vegetables on the plate. Studies show that the more kids are exposed to a food, the more likely they are to try it.
  • Make sleep a priority. Research shows that chronic lack of sleep in children may actually change their hormone balance and slow their metabolism. This can then lead to an increased obesity risk. Therefore, it’s important to establish a regular bedtime routine. To help your child get sleepy when it’s time for bed, keep distractions to a minimum in his or her bedroom. This may include removing TVs, cellphones, and computers.
  • Keep track. Buy your child a pedometer — better still, get one for everyone in the family! These inexpensive devices clip easily onto clothing and measure how many steps you take during the day. This way you can have fun every evening seeing who covered the most distance. Kids tend to love these challenges and will naturally want to do more. Just keep it light-hearted and help your child “win” on occasion. 

With these simple lifestyle habits in place, your child will have a better chance of maintaining a healthy weight all the way into adulthood.