September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month


September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month


Chances are, you’ve heard about the obesity epidemic in the nation. But, did you know that 1 in 3 children in the United States is overweight or obese? Childhood obesity puts kids at risk for health problems that were once seen only in adults which include:  type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. LUCKILY Childhood obesity can be prevented and we can all help and think of ways for our kids and kids in our community to make healthier eating choices and increase their physical activity.

Here are just a few ways you can help your kids start and stay on a healthy track! :

Start SMALL:  Minor adjustments and changes, like keeping fresh fruit within a child’s reach or going on a family walk after dinner can set a good, routine foundation.

Pan your meals and activities: Establish set mealtimes in the home and encourage physical activity for the times in between.

Pay attention to portions: Unknowingly, we may prepare meals that might be 2, 3, or even 4 times a suggested serving size!

So, What Counts as One Serving?

Here are some basic examples:

Grain Group

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta
  • 1/2 cup of cooked cereal
  • 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal

Vegetable Group

  • 1/2 cup of chopped raw or cooked vegetables
  • 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables

Fruit Group

  • 1 piece of fruit or melon wedge
  • 3/4 cup of juice
  • 1/2 cup of canned fruit
  • 1/4 cup of dried fruit

Milk Group

  • 1 cup of low-fat or fat-free milk or yogurt
  • 2 ounces of cheese

Meat Group

  • 2-3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish
  • 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans, or 1 egg counts as 1 ounce of lean meat. 2 tablespoons of peanut butter count as 1 ounce of meat.

Fats and Sweets

  • Limit calories from these.

Four-to-6 year-olds can eat these serving sizes. Offer 2-to-3 year-olds less, except for milk. Two-to-6-year-old children need a total of 2 servings from the milk group each day.

  • Discourage eating meals or snacks while watching TV. Eating in front of the TV may make it difficult to pay attention to feelings of fullness and may lead to overeating.
  • Buy fewer high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. Help children understand that sweets and high-fat treats (such as candy, cookies, or cake) are not everyday foods. Don’t deprive children of occasional treats, however. This can make them more likely to overeat.
  • Avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” All foods in moderation can be part of a healthy diet.
  • Involve children in planning, shopping, and preparing meals. Use these activities to understand children’s food preferences, teach children about nutrition, and encourage them to try a wide variety of foods.
  • Make the most of snacks. Continuous snacking may lead to overeating. Plan healthy snacks at specific times. Include two food groups, for example, apple wedges and whole-grain crackers. Focus on maximum nutrition – fruits, vegetables, grains, low-sugar cereals, low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and meat alternatives. Avoid excessive amounts of fruit juices, which contains calories, but fewer nutrients than the fruits they come from. A reasonable amount of juice is 4-8 ounces per day.
  • Encourage physical activity. Participate in family physical activity time on a regular basis, such as walks, bike rides, hikes, and active games. Support your children’s organized physical activities. Provide a safe, accessible place outside for play.
  • Limit the amount of time children watch television, play video games, and work on the computer to 1 to 2 hours per day. The average American child spends about 24 hours each week watching television. Reducing sedentary activities helps increase physical activity.

Compiled from HealthFinder.gov and Mealtime Memo for child care. A fact sheet for the Child and Adult Care Food Program, from the National Food Service Management Institute, The University of Mississippi.