Childhood Obesity Month
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, September is National Childhood Obesity Month. Growing obesity rates affect not just adults, but children as well. Currently, one out of five children in the United States is obese, running the risk for other chronic health conditions and diseases such as high blood pressure cholesterol, asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and type 2 diabetes.
As an expert in pediatric lipid management, I see a lot of young children whose body mass index (BMI) is on the rise. While they may not be in an “overweight” or “obese” category, their pediatricians showed concern about how quickly they were gaining weight. To me, this is the perfect time to address these concerns with their parents because it is early enough to make changes. They are aware that something is off about their child’s eating habits and want to address it. Because these children are still growing and developing, there is an opportunity for their BMI to normalize. The earlier this happens, the lower the risk of them carrying their obesity into their adulthood.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for these families. All families are different and unique and operate under different circumstances and have different resources. What works for one might not work for the other. Some may be busy working parents, recent immigrants, in school, or working night shifts.
But whenever I am asked how to help curb a child’s weight gain, there is some tried and true advice that can help just about everyone.
Drinks lots of water. Water is the no-calorie alternative to sugary, flavored drinks. While most patients are limiting their juice and soda intake, they have fallen for clever players on this field and continue to drink smoothies, sports drinks, refreshers. These seemingly healthy alternatives are packed with unnecessary sugars and calories.
Eat a healthy breakfast. Do not insist that your child eats something rather than nothing. Instead, provide nutritious, low calories foods packed with nutrients and fiber. Depending on their preferences, breakfast could look like steel-cut oats with fruit (hint: prep oats in advance!), whole-grain English muffin with almond butter and sliced strawberries, a plain yogurt with honey, blueberries and sliced almonds, or chia seed pudding with mango and coconut flakes.
Eat more plants. No, not the fiddle-leaf fig tree in the living room! Think carrots, cucumbers, beans, peas, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans, corn, and avocado. If your child doesn’t like a wide variety, start small and add a vegetable serving to every meal. Don’t be afraid to add some flavor - a pinch of salt and a squeeze of citrus works wonders! Try out this simple broccoli recipe and let your child do some experimenting. Is your child refusing to eat salad? Try this simple Thai Crunch Salad with sesame vinaigrette. You might be surprised by the outcome!