Childhood Obesity Is Everyones Problem

Reducing childhood obesity in the U.S. needs to be a #1 priority. Here are some ways you can help:

Parents: Set a good example. Instead of focusing on a diet for one child in the family, focus on improving the health of all family members by removing junk foods from the home, and preparing or purchasing meals that are low in fat and sugar. Serve lots of different varieties of fruits and vegetables; avoid frying food; purchase whole-grain breads and cereals; use fat-free milk for all family members over the age of 2. Restrict the amounts of meat, fish, chicken, eggs, beans and nuts to the serving sizes recommended by the USDA. The USDA website has information for all age groups and both genders, according to the amount of physical activity engaged in above your normal routine.

Limit TV and computer use to no more than 2 hours per day. Too much TV stifles a child's creativity, and keeps them from getting necessary daily exercise. The new USDA guidelines for exercise say that we need to exercise ½ hour a day for good health, 1 hour a day to maintain weight loss, and 1 ½ hours a day to lose weight. Since overweight children often avoid playing with other children because of the teasing and tormenting they receive, you may need to exercise with your child. Take nightly family walks or bike rides, shoot hoops, skate, dance, or let them help you wash the car, give the dog a bath; rake or weed the yard. Purchase an inexpensive pedometer for each family member, and have daily challenges to see who can take the most steps.

Schools: Replace junk foods and beverages in vending machines with healthier snacks, bottled water, and fat-free milk or fruit smoothies. Change cafeteria menus to include whole wheat bread, more salads, fresh fruit or fruit smoothies, and veggie pizzas. Limit French fries to one lunch per week. Stop serving sweets at class parties and offer fresh fruit or other healthy choices instead. Ask teachers to stop giving candy as rewards for good behavior or good work, and give stickers or other types of non-food recognition.

Medical Professionals: Counsel parents of overweight children, and give them positive suggestions for healthy weight loss. Find out what the child eats and drinks in a normal day, and suggest healthier alternatives. Recommend limiting TV and computer use to no more than 2 hours per day. Suggest exercise activities for the entire family. If parents are overweight, make sure they understand the health risks for themselves and their children. Don't accept the "we've tried everything to lose weight" excuse, but emphasize making healthy lifestyle changes instead of dieting.

Restaurants: Offer healthy choices, especially on children's menus. Reduce portion sizes for adults, and charge extra for larger portions, or make smaller portions available at reduced prices.

Advertisers: Stop targeting ads for junk foods to children. Advertise healthier choices such as whole-grain cereals, and foods that are low in sugar.

Community Leaders: Work to increase the number of exercise facilities and playgrounds in your community. The more choices available, the more children will be likely to find activities they enjoy. Ask sports professionals, dance instructors or other athletes to volunteer their time to teach children.

Media: Run feature stories about schools with successful changes in food or exercise programs, and families who have lost weight by making better choices of food and exercising together daily. Prove that weight loss need not involve temporary restrictive diets.

Let's work together to reduce childhood obesity and keep health care costs affordable!

Bev Grey is the author of the new book "The Project", and founder and president of Grandma's Healthy Kids Club, an in-home program to help children lose weight safely. Visit the website at http://www.grandmashealthykidsclub.com

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