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Childhood Obesity FAQs
Q: What causes obesity in children?
A: Obesity is a complex situation that is associated with many factors. Compared to 40 years ago, today’s children encounter heavily marketed, energy-dense foods several times each day, and they spend a great deal of sedentary time absorbed by televisions, video games and social network activities.
Q: How can I tell if my child is overweight?
A: Ask your child’s doctor, who will measure your son or daughter’s weight and height to determine your child’s Body Mass Index (BMI).
Q: What medical conditions are associated with childhood obesity?
A: Obesity increases the risk for health conditions once considered adult diseases. Those include high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Obese children are more likely to have asthma and early puberty. Additionally, a child who is overweight may become unhappy and self-conscious, leading to the development of eating disorders, depression or substance abuse.
Q: How can I help my overweight or obese child?
A: Lead by example. Create an environment that supports healthy eating and physical activity at home and wherever your child spends time. Buy and serve healthy foods; offer only water or low fat milk to drink. Keep healthy foods and water in the car to avoid unplanned trips to fast food franchises. Chose child-care settings that serve only healthy foods and beverages, and support elimination of less healthy foods from schools. Limit screen time – from the cell phone to the TV and all sized screens in between and avoid media that expose children to marketing for less healthy foods. The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends capping screen time for kids older than 2 at one to two hours. Kids younger than 2 should have no screen time at all.
Children model the behavior of the adults in their lives. That’s why good eating habits, family activities and limited screen time have to start with parents and caregivers.
Q: What is a healthy diet?
A: Small changes can have a big impact when combined:
- Eat lots of fruit and vegetables
- Choose whole-grain products
- Drink low-fat or non-fat milk
- Serve lean meats, poultry and fish
- Limit sugary and fatty foods
- Drink lots of water