Childhood obesity is one of the primary risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD). One in three children in the United States is overweight or obese and nearly 60 percent of those children have at least one cardiovascular risk factor. Childhood is a critical period for preventing obesity and the development of CVD risk factors and ultimately CVD in adults.
Here are a few simple things parents can do to help prevent childhood obesity and CVD:
- Prepare breakfast daily. Offer children simple breakfasts such as oatmeal, low-sugar cereals, whole wheat toast and fruit.
- Encourage ‘no thank you’ bites. Offer children each new healthy food ten to fifteen times before giving up. This will encourage the development of children's own taste preferences.
- Drive by the Drive-Thru. Prepare meals together as a family. Limit sweetened beverages and fast food.
- Switch to 2%, 1% or fat-free milk for children two years old and older. In 2008 the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its milk consumption recommendations in response to the US childhood obesity epidemic. Here is a quick summary: Do not drink cow’s milk before one year. After one year and until two years of age drink whole milk. After two years of age drink fat-free or low-fat milk.
- Enjoy simple activities together as a family. Get outside often with your children to play catch, jump rope, play tag, hide and seek or take a walk around the block after supper.
And remember, don't single out one child for change; it's easier if the whole family works together to eat healthier, move more, and reduce screen time.