A 4-Week Plan to Fight Childhood Obesity

I recently started my Dietetic Internship and my first rotation is community nutrition. One of my first projects involved putting together materials to send to in-home childcare providers and after-school sites to help raise awareness about childhood obesity.

The childhood obesity epidemic is something I’m very passionate about and it was one of the main reasons I decided to go back to school to become an RD. You should know, I’m all about passing along knowledge and resources to help educate people who can then take that knowledge and teach the children around them.

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. 

The main goal of this month is to help bring awareness to the issue of childhood obesity and to inspire families and communities to become make healthier food choices and be more active.

A Serious Problem.

Currently, one in three American children is already overweight or obese. This puts them at increased risk for serious conditions like cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. In addition, obese young people have an 80% chance of becoming obese adults. Currently, we spend over $14 billion dollars per year in direct healthcare costs related to childhood obesity.

Let’s take the month of September to teach ourselves how we can help.

I created this four week plan for you to follow!

Week One: Make Healthy Choices

    • Eat more fruits and vegetables: Fill half of the child’s plate with fruits and vegetables. Choose brightly colored vegetables that are fun for children to eat and encourage children to “just try a bite” of new fruits and vegetables.
    • Choose healthy beverages: Always offer children water first when they are thirsty! If juice is offered, be sure it is 100% fruit juice. It is recommended that people over age 3 have less than 6 ounces of 100% juice per day.
    • Eat the right amount of food for your body: Talk to children about portion size so they know how much they should be eating. Also, explain that it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to send a signal to the brain that it is full. Encourage children to wait several minutes after finishing before getting seconds.

Week Two: The Importance of Breakfast and Healthy Snacks

    • Eat breakfast daily: Eating breakfast helps children stay focused and perform better in school. A child who eats breakfast is more likely to maintain a healthy weight.
    • Choose healthy snacks: Snacks can help keep children from getting too hungry between meals. Be sure to serve the correct portion size for snack foods. Snacks should be around 200 calories and a healthy snack should include at least two food groups.

Week 3: The Importance of Physical Activity

Children should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day: You can break up play time into several shorter sessions during the day if necessary. Try taking 5 minute breaks during the day to have children stretch, do jumping jacks or run around.

Play with children so that they can see you being physically active too! Limit screen time for children. Screen time includes computer, tv and video games and should be limited to no more than 2 hours per day. It’s also important to play with children so that they can see you being physically active too!

Week 4: Have Healthy Celebrations

Celebrations and parties can be a great time for children to try new activities and enjoy healthy foods: Children can learn to make healthy choices even when they are celebrating! Use non-food treats like new toys or books to celebrate special occasions. Don’t make food the focus of the celebration, and make sure the food that is provided is healthy and festive!

I encourage you to use these tips with the children in your own life. For more information you can visit the National Childhood Obesity Awareness website. I also encourage you to spread the word via social media during the month of September!

Here’s a couple of tweets you could use:

#ChildObesity is an epidemic in the U.S.

#ChildObesity puts kids at risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Together, we can make a difference!

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Lindsay is Registered Dietitian and writes about food and fitness at The Lean Green Bean. She shares healthy recipes, fun workouts, and snapshots of her life. She lives with her husband in Ohio and enjoys traveling and spending time outside with her dogs.