(RxWiki News) Learning habits to maintain a healthy weight in childhood can promote lifelong health.
And while childhood obesity is an incredibly complex issue that can have a multitude of different causes, there are some steps that parents can take to help their children maintain a healthy weight.
Health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently outlined some of those steps. Read on to learn more.
Sugar occurs naturally in many healthy foods, but when extra sugar is added to the foods children eat, it can cause problems. According to the CDC, children younger than 2 shouldn't consume any added sugar. Meanwhile, kids older than 2 should limit their sugar intake to 10 percent of their total calories or less.
One of the best ways to cut sugar in a child's diet is to avoid sugary drinks like soda. Juice and flavored milks can also be added sugar offenders. Instead of sweetened drinks, promote water, plain milk or 100 percent juice.
Get More Physical Activity
Exercise is good for everyone in a wide variety of ways, but it's also good for weight maintenance and weight loss. According to the CDC, kids should get at least an hour of physical activity each day.
Many kids do not naturally get that much physical activity, but you can help. Make exercising fun by going on walks, dancing in the living room, playing in the yard or doing a sport together.
Promote Fruits and Vegetables
Most parents have at least some control over what kids eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and this is an area where you can promote healthy eating habits. Make sure half of each plate is fruits and vegetables, and you're well on your way to a healthier diet for your little ones.
This is a serious issue, too. According to the CDC, just 2 percent of children in a 2017 study ate enough vegetables, and only 7 percent ate enough fruit.
Look at Screens Less
More screen time has been tied to problems like weight gain and poor sleep, as well as lower grades in school. While some screen time is probably inescapable in this day and age, you can cut the total amount for your kids with the following strategies:
- Turning off all screens an hour before bed time
- Setting a daily screen time limit for the entire family
- Charging smartphones and tablets outside of bedrooms overnight
- Making meal times into no-screen times
Get Enough Sleep
Getting too little sleep is linked to obesity, as well as a host of other health issues. Children between ages 6 and 12 need nine to 12 hours of sleep each night, while teenagers need between eight and 10 hours. You can help your child get enough sleep by setting a consistent bedtime and sleep schedule, encouraging physical activity every day and implementing a no-screens rule an hour before bed.
If you are concerned about your child's health, reach out to your family health care provider.