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Preventing Childhood Obesity: Healthy Habits for Your Family

 Childhood obesity is common. In 2017, 30% of children between 5 to 17 were overweight or obese1. Obesity can put children at risk for diseases such as asthma, type 2diabetess, and heart disease. Living a healthy lifestyle with physical activity and nutritious eating is the best way to prevent obesity. Here are some practical ways to engage in healthy living.

Avoid skipping meals, especially breakfast. Skipping breakfast has been associated with obesity. Children should be eating 3 balanced meals with 1 to 2 snacks per day. Your kids are more likely to eat what they helped to make, so involve them in the cooking process. Let them mix the bowl or add ingredients.

Do not let your child graze throughout the day. Keep healthy snacks available such as fruits and vegetables. Watch portion sizes, especially when eating out. Restaurant portion sizes may not be appropriate for children. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages such as sodas. Juice intake should be less than 4 ounces per day.

When eating dinner, turn off the TV and take the time to connect with your family. People tend to eat more when watching TV. Remember that mindless eating or snacking while watching TV promotes weight gain. Keep screen time under 2 hours per day. Television viewing is sedentary and will expose your child to food advertisements of high caloric foods.

Get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. The benefits of regular exercise extend beyond obesity prevention and include improved strength and endurance, stronger bones and emotional well-being. Activities do not necessarily have to be an organized sport. It can be obtained through family activities and play like walks, bicycle trips or outdoor games.

Finally, maintain a good nighttime sleep routine with consistent bedtimes and removing the TV or electronic devices from the bedroom. Scientific evidence is showing that obesity is associated with shorter sleep periods. Start putting some of these healthy habits in place to prevent obesity and enjoy a better quality of life with your family!

Becky Biqi Chen was a resident in general pediatrics for three years at the Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre. She is currently specializing in pediatric gastroenterology during her fellowship at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital.


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