Did you know 1 in 3 children in America are considered obese or overweight? This statistic may not come as much of a surprise. With today’s fast-paced lifestyle some families frequent fast food restaurants more often than the neighborhood park. We spend much of our days commuting in cars and staring at screens which can make it difficult to engage in healthy activities.
It is important to recognize that childhood obesity is about more than appearance. If your child is obese or overweight he or she may be at risk for health problems that were once seen only in adults, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Overweight children also often experience low self-esteem, body issues and depression.
With our busy schedules and increasing responsibilities, it can be challenging to think of ways to cultivate a healthier lifestyle for you and your family. We’ve put together a list of tips to get you started or help recharge your current efforts:
The American Heart Association recommends at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Take your kids on a walk to explore their local community. Encourage your child to join a sports team or pick up a hobby that focuses on movement. Make up fun games like this Healthy Challenge Scavenger Hunt.
We should all be eating more vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Make it easy for your children to choose healthier foods by making them more accessible. Wash and prepare healthy snacks and package them in convenient containers. Have fun with holiday-themed recipes like these Tangerine Pumpkins and Banana Ghosts. Checkout this list of healthy snacks, all under $1 per serving for more ideas.
Drink more water.
Replace juice and other sugary drinks with water. Juice is not as healthy as you may think — it often includes additional sugar and lacks the important fiber found in whole fruits. Instead, add slices of fresh fruit to cold water for a flavorful treat. Here is a helpful chart to find out how healthy your child’s favorite drink is.
Limit screen time.
Encourage your child to step away from the TV and put the electronics down. You may be surprised by how much fun your family will have engaging in activities like game night or a walk after dinner.
The good news is it is never too late to start making these changes. Helping your child develop a healthy lifestyle at an early age will have lasting benefits. Show your child how easy these changes can be by setting the example, studies show family participation leads to the best outcomes.
If you are concerned about your child’s weight, be sure to bring it up with his or her pediatrician. If your child has other risk factors, your pediatrician may recommend an evaluation by a specialist, like a pediatric cardiologist.
A pediatric cardiologist can conduct a physical exam and evaluation of your child’s heart which may include an ECG (a test that records the heart’s activity through wires taped to your child’s chest) and echocardiogram, (a test that uses soundwaves to take a picture of the heart). As part of the evaluation, he or she may also review your child’s health history, medications, lab work, and family history and may recommend additional tests.
Using the information gathered, the pediatric cardiologist may also make diet and exercise recommendations in line with your child’s daily caloric needs and your family’s lifestyle, and may help set goals and provide tools to monitor your child’s progress.
Find a pediatric cardiology care team near you! Pediatrix Cardiology, a MEDNAX company, is a national provider of pediatric cardiology services with 22 practices across the country. Visit mednax.com/cardiology to find a location close to you.
For more information on childhood obesity and heart health visit the American Heart Association.