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Overweight in Children Affects the Whole Family

Por Carola Sixto -
Overweight in Children Affects the Whole Family

Around 18.5% of Hispanic preschool children are obese. If the problem is not addressed in time, obesity is also more likely in adulthood. To fight obesity, awareness within the entire family is needed to promote a change of habits. 

Five out of ten preschool Hispanic children are obese, with a prevalence of 18.5% according to records of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2008. And this might seem a minor problem, but it really isn’t. Studies show that obese children present a higher risk of diseases during youth and adulthood, such as cardiovascular disorders, in comparison to other children. High cholesterol and hypertension are leading factors. In addition, obesity may cause type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, and social discrimination.

A Shared Problem
One of the main mistakes often repeated by the families of obese children is thinking “small children, small problems.” Research has shown that 80% of children who were obese between 10 and 15 years of age will be obese by age 25.

To prevent this situation, the only alternative is making changes in the habits of the whole family. This is another fact that should be kept in mind: the problem of an obese child affects the entire family.

As a first step, it is necessary to modify the diet of the family and begin a healthy eating plan. Simultaneously, physical activity should be increased, aiming for at least 60 minutes of exercise on most days of the week.

To do this, we suggest:
• Sit with your child and explain the importance of changing the way of eating. Eating more fruits and vegetables will help your child improve concentration in school, as well as his/her sports performance. Talk to your child about these benefits to motivate changes in eating habits.
• Don’t forbid snacks and candies; instead, explain that the goal is to reduce the consumption of these foods, in order to feel better. The idea is to make children responsible of what they eat; if you just forbid these foods, they’ll find a way of having them without you noticing.
• If dairies are frequent in your home, choose low-fat alternatives.
• Limit the consumption of high-sugar drinks or sodas, and encourage your children to drink more water. Leave sodas for the weekend, but choose sugar-free versions.
• When preparing food, always select lean meats, skinless poultry, fish, and legumes.
• Reduce serving sizes progressively. Explain children they don’t need to be “full” after eating.
• Although it may take more energy, try to always have a low-calorie dessert. Some examples are: fruit salads, sugar-free jello, diet desserts, or low-calorie ice cream.
• Avoid having cookies or candies available. If your child knows you have them, you’ll be asking him/her to live with a permanent temptation. And this is an almost impossible challenge, even for adults who want to lose weight.
• Establish a new “reward system” in your home: if chocolates or candies were the prize for good grades in school, change them for a shared activity your children enjoy.

Today could be the first day of the rest of your life. Become the best example for your children and start by changing your own habits. A healthy parent is essential to a healthy child.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


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