While not all children who are heavy grow up to be overweight adults, studies indicate that an obese child has a greater chance of becoming an obese adult than does a child who maintains a healthier weight. In fact, for every year that a child remains overweight, his or her risk of growing into an overweight adult increases. With the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States, parents should focus on encouraging a less sedentary lifestyle and healthier dietary habits. Start with these simple approaches (which can benefit all family members, young or old):
- Curb screen time. Limit the time your child spends watching television, sitting at the computer, or playing video games. Instead encourage outdoor play or activities that emphasize movement.
- Set a good example. Studies have found that children are more likely to be physically active if their parents and siblings are active. Go on family walks after dinner, and make it a point to be active on weekends.
- Emphasize nutritious foods. Replace empty-calorie foods such as cookies and chips with foods that provide nutrients. Fruit, cut-up vegetables and nuts (in small portions) make excellent snacks that are nutritious and filling.
- Eat meals together. Serve healthy dishes, manage portion sizes, and make conversation part of the routine so the focus is not just on food, but sharing, conversing and eating together.
- Think about drinks. Cut back on or water-down fruit juices, and eliminate soda altogether – make it a special treat that is not had at home.
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