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Childhood Obesity

Our modern sedentary lifestyles are taking tolls on everyone. More and more of us are no longer physically active at home or at work. We eat too much and we eat the wrong foods. And to our horror, our children are following in our footsteps, at a very early age. Childhood Obesity has been recognized as an epidemic in many places around the world. The research studies are eye opening. We have not come to terms with this disease, although me must. We are just learning how immense its scope is. We are just learning how to address it individually and as a society.


Helping Your Overweight Child


Healthy eating and physical activity habits are key to your child’s well-being. Eating too much and exercising too little can lead to overweight and related health problems that can follow children into their adult years. You can take an active role in helping your child - and your whole family - learn healthy eating and physical activity habits that can last for a lifetime.


photo of family with food at picnic table

Is my child overweight?

Because children grow at different rates at different times, it is not always easy to tell if a child is overweight. If you think that your child is overweight, talk to your health care provider. He or she can measure your child’s height and weight and tell you if your child is in a healthy range.

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How can I help my overweight child?

Involve the whole family in building healthy eating and physical activity habits. It benefits everyone and does not single out the child who is overweight.

Do not put your child on a weight-loss diet unless your health care provider tells you to. If children do not eat enough, they may not grow and learn as well as they should.

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Be supportive

  • Tell your child that he or she is loved, is special, and is important. Children’s feelings about themselves often are based on their parents' feelings about them.
  • Accept your child at any weight. Children will be more likely to accept and feel good about themselves when their parents accept them.
  • Listen to your child’s concerns about his or her weight. Overweight children probably know better than anyone else that they have a weight problem. They need support, understanding, and encouragement from parents.
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Encourage healthy eating habits

  • Buy and serve more fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, or canned). Let your child choose them at the store.
  • Buy fewer soft drinks and high fat/high calorie snack foods like chips, cookies, and candy. These snacks are OK once in a while, but keep healthy snack foods on hand too and offer them to your child more often.
  • photo of boy and girl eating healthy foodEat breakfast every day. Skipping breakfast can leave your child hungry, tired, and looking for less healthy foods later in the day.
  • Plan healthy meals and eat together as a family. Eating together at meal times helps children learn to enjoy a variety of foods.
  • Eat fast food less often. When you visit a fast food restaurant, try the healthful options offered.
  • Offer your child water or low-fat milk more often than fruit juice. Fruit juice is a healthy choice but is high in calories.
  • Do not get discouraged if your child will not eat a new food the first time it is served. Some kids will need to have a new food served to them 10 times or more before they will eat it.
  • Try not to use food as a reward when encouraging kids to eat. Promising dessert to a child for eating vegetables, for example, sends the message that vegetables are less valuable than dessert. Kids learn to dislike foods they think are less valuable.
  • Start with small servings and let your child ask for more if he or she is still hungry. It is up to you to provide your child with healthy meals and snacks, but your child should be allowed to choose how much food he or she will eat.

Healthy snack foods for your child to try:

  • photo of fresh strawberriesFresh fruit
  • Fruit canned in juice or light syrup
  • Small amounts of dried fruits such as raisins, apple rings, or apricots
  • Fresh vegetables such as baby carrots, cucumber, zucchini, or tomatoes
  • Reduced fat cheese or a small amount of peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers
  • Low-fat yogurt with fruit
  • Graham crackers, animal crackers, or low-fat vanilla wafers

Foods that are small, round, sticky, or hard to chew, such as raisins, whole grapes, hard vegetables, hard chunks of cheese, nuts, seeds, and popcorn can cause choking in children under age 4. You can still prepare some of these foods for young children, for example, by cutting grapes into small pieces and cooking and cutting up vegetables. Always watch your toddler during meals and snacks.

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Encourage daily physical activity

 

Like adults, kids need daily physical activity. Here are some ways to help your child move every day:

  • photo of mother and two children washing a carSet a good example. If your children see that you are physically active and have fun, they are more likely to be active and stay active throughout their lives.
  • Encourage your child to join a sports team or class, such as soccer, dance, basketball, or gymnastics at school or at your local community or recreation center.
  • Be sensitive to your child’s needs. If your child feels uncomfortable participating in activities like sports, help him or her find physical activities that are fun and not embarrassing.
  • Be active together as a family. Assign active chores such as making the beds, washing the car, or vacuuming. Plan active outings such as a trip to the zoo or a walk through a local park.

Because his or her body is not ready yet, do not encourage your pre-adolescent child to participate in adult-style physical activity such as long jogs, using an exercise bike or treadmill, or lifting heavy weights. FUN physical activities are best for kids.

Kids need a total of about 60 minutes of physical activity a day, but this does not have to be all at one time. Short 10- or even 5-minute bouts of activity throughout the day are just as good. If your children are not used to being active, encourage them to start with what they can do and build up to 60 minutes a day.

FUN physical activities for your child to try:

photo of girl jumping ropeRiding a bike

Climbing on a jungle gym

Swinging on a swing set

Jumping rope

Playing hopscotch

Bouncing a ball

 

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Discourage inactive pastimes

  • Set limits on the amount of time your family spends watching TV and videos, and playing video games.
  • Help your child find FUN things to do besides watching TV, like acting out favorite books or stories, or doing a family art project. Your child may find that creative play is more interesting than television.
  • Encourage your child to get up and move during commercials and discourage snacking when the TV is on.

 

Be a positive role model

Children are good learners and they learn what they see. Choose healthy foods and active pastimes for yourself. Your children will see that they can follow healthy habits that last a lifetime.

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Find more help

Your health care provider

Ask your health care provider for brochures, booklets, or other information about healthy eating, physical activity, and weight control. He or she may be able to refer you to other health care professionals who work with overweight children, such as registered dietitians, psychologists, and exercise physiologists.

Weight-control program

You may want to think about a treatment program if:

  • You have changed your family’s eating and physical activity habits and your child has not reached a healthy weight.
  • Your health care provider has told you that your child’s health or emotional well-being is at risk because of his or her weight.

The overall goal of a treatment program should be to help your whole family adopt healthy eating and physical activity habits that you can keep up for the rest of your lives. Here are some other things a weight-control program should do:

  • Include a variety of health care professionals on staff: doctors, registered dietitians, psychiatrists or psychologists, and/or exercise physiologists.
  • Evaluate your child’s weight, growth, and health before enrolling in the program and watch these factors while enrolled.
  • Adapt to the specific age and abilities of your child. Programs for 4-year-olds should be different from those for 12-year-olds.
  • Help your family keep up healthy eating and physical activity behaviors after the program ends.

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Other resources

 

The Food Guide Pyramid can help you make healthy food choices for your family. Available from the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, 703-305-7600 and at www.usda.gov/cnpp/pyrabklt.pdf

Tips for Using the Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children 2 to 6 Years Old can help you teach your young child what to eat to grow and stay healthy. Available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, 202-512-1800 and at www.usda.gov/cnpp/KidsPyra/PyrBook.pdf

Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Across Your Lifespan: Helping Your Child provides in-depth information for parents. Available from the Weight-control Information Network (WIN), 1-877-946-4627 and at www.niddk.nih.gov/health/nutrit/pubs/parentips/tipsforparents.htm

http://www.kidnetic.com/ provides healthy eating and physical activity tips for kids and parents.

http://www.kidshealth.org/ provides information about nutrition and fitness for kids.

http://www.bam.gov/ answers kids' health questions about body and mind.

http://www.verbnow.com/ encourages kids to get physically active.

 

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Weight-control Information Network

1 WIN WAY
BETHESDA, MD 20892-3665
Phone: (202) 828-1025
FAX: (202) 828-1028

E-mail: win@info.niddk.nih.gov
Internet: www.niddk.nih.gov/health/nutrit/nutrit.htm
Toll-free number: 1-877-946-4627

The Weight-control Information Network (WIN) is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, which is the Federal Government’s lead agency responsible for biomedical research on nutrition and obesity. Authorized by Congress (Public Law 103-43), WIN provides the general public, health professionals, the media, and Congress with up-to-date, science-based health information on weight control, obesity, physical activity, and related nutritional issues.

WIN answers inquiries, develops and distributes publications, and works closely with professional and patient organizations and Government agencies to coordinate resources about weight control and related issues.

Publications produced by WIN are reviewed by both NIDDK scientists and outside experts. This fact sheet was also reviewed by Leonard Epstein, Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics, Social and Preventive Medicine, and Psychology, University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and Gladys Gary Vaughn, Ph.D., National Program Leader, Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

This e-text is not copyrighted. WIN encourages unlimited duplication and distribution of this fact sheet.


 

NIH Publication No. 04-4096
July 2004

Prepared in cooperation with the International Food Information Council Foundation http://www.ific.org/
http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/over_child.htm

 

 

 

Prevalence of Overweight Among Children and Adolescents: United States, 1999-2002

Prevalence of Overweight among children and adolescents

Note: Excludes pregnant women starting with 1971-74. Pregnancy status available for 1963-65 and 1966-70. Data for 1963-65 are for children 6-11 years of age; data for 1966-70 are for adolescents 12-17 years of age, not 12-19 years. SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, NHES and NHANES


 

Results from the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), using measured heights and weights, indicate that an estimated 16 percent of children and adolescents ages 6-19 years are overweight. As shown in table 1, this represents a 45 percent increase from the overweight estimates of 11 percent obtained from NHANES III (1988-94).

Body mass index, expressed as weight/height2 (BMI;kg/m2) is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity among adults, and is also recommended to identify children who are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. Cutoff criteria are based on the 2000 CDC BMI-for-age-growth charts for the United States. Based on current recommendations of expert committees, children with BMI values at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific BMI growth charts are categorized as overweight.

To assess changes in overweight that have occurred, prevalence estimates for participants in the 1999-2002 NHANES were compared with estimates for those who participated in earlier surveys. The NHANES 1999-2002 and earlier surveys used a stratified, multistage, probability sample of the civilian noninstitutionalized U.S. population. A household interview and a physical examination were conducted for each survey participant. During the physical examination, conducted in mobile examination centers, height and weight were measured as part of a more comprehensive set of body measurements. These measurements were taken by trained health technicians, using standardized measuring procedures and equipment. Observations for persons missing a valid height or weight measurement were not included in the data analysis.

When the overweight definition (greater than or equal to 95th percentile of the age- and sex-specific BMI) is applied to data from earlier national health examination surveys, it is apparent that overweight in children and adolescents was relatively stable from the 1960s to 1980 (table 1). However, from NHANES II (1976-80) to NHANES III, the prevalence of overweight nearly doubled among children and adolescents. In the time interval between NHANES II and III, the prevalence of overweight among children ages 6-11 years increased from an estimated 7 percent to 11 percent (figure 1), and among adolescents ages 12-19 years, increased from 5 percent to 11 percent. One of the national health objectives for 2010 is to reduce the prevalence of overweight from the NHANES III baseline of 11 percent. However, the NHANES 1999-2002 overweight estimates suggest that since 1994, overweight in youths has not leveled off or decreased, and is increasing to even higher levels. The data for adolescents are of notable concern because overweight adolescents are at increased risk to become overweight adults. The 1999-2002 findings for children and adolescents suggest the likelihood of another generation of overweight adults who may be at risk for subsequent overweight and obesity related health conditions.

Table 1. Prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents ages 6-19 years, for selected years 1963-65 through 1999-2002

Age (years)1

NHANES
1963-65
1966-702

NHANES
1971-74

NHANES
1976-80

NHANES
1988-94

NHANES
1999-2002

6-11

4

4

7

11

16

12-19

5

6

5

11

16


1
Excludes pregnant women starting with 1971-74. Pregnancy status not available for 1963-65 and 1966-70.
2Data for 1963-65 are for children 6-11 years of age; data for 1966-70 are for adolescents 12-17 years of age, not 12-19 years.

 

 

Fact Sheet

For more detailed estimates see:

Hedley, AA, Ogden, CL, Johnson, CL, Carroll, MD, Curtin, LR, Flegal, KM. Overweight and obesity among US children, adolescents, and adults, 1999-2002. JAMA 291:2847-50. 2004.

bullet Ogden CL, Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Johnson CL. Prevalence and trends in overweight among US children and adolescents, 1999-2000. JAMA 288:1728-32. 2002.

 

 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Health Statistics

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/pubs/pubd/hestats/overwght99.htm

 

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