Did you know that one-third of all American children are overweight or obese? And the number of obese adolescents has tripled over the past four decades? Follow these steps and help your kids avoid our nation’s unhealthy trend.
Step 1: Know your child’s Body Mass Index (BMI) number. All you need is your child’s age, gender, height and weight.
- For children and teens ages 2 to 19, visit the CDC's BMI calculator for children. (Link opens in new window.)
- If your child’s BMI is above the 85th percentile he or she is likely overweight. If the BMI is above the 95th percentile then he or she may be considered obese. Talk with your family doctor about the next steps to take.
Step 2: It’s time for a metabolism makeover: Convert unhealthy food choices to a sensible eating plan!
- Change your frame of mind. “Diets” are all about rules, requirements and limitations. Instead of focusing on what you “shouldn’t” or “can’t” do, emphasize what you CAN do, like choosing to eat healthy foods and increase your physical activity level.
- The simplest changes count. Just skipping one or two cookies a day and adding 60 minutes of play time can make a difference.
- Visit heart.org/simplecooking for healthy eating tips and recipes the whole family will love.
Step 3: Make it a family affair. When the whole family is involved in making healthy changes you boost your odds in the battle against childhood obesity.
- Studies have shown that children whose families eat dinner together are less likely to be overweight. Also, kids who get adequate sleep and limit TV time to two hours a day are less likely to be obese.
- Be a sensible role model for your children; they will do what they see you do. Learn more about how to help your child develop healthy habits.
- Practice what you preach; avoid that cookie and join your kids in their play time.
- Take a family walk after dinner, go to a local park and spend an hour playing with your kids, or go swimming at a local pool!
Step 4: Don’t make it hard for kids to make healthy decisions!
- Build a healthy environment at home. Keep fruits and vegetables within arm’s reach. Leave the junk food behind on the supermarket shelves.
- Weight can be a touchy topic between children and parents. Avoid criticizing their eating habits. Instead, educate them about being healthy and benefits that come with it. Make sure to praise them for making healthy choices too!
- Addressing Your Child’s Weight at the Doctor
- Preventing Childhood Obesity: Tips for Parents and Caretakers
- Childhood Obesity
Last Reviewed 8/2014