Across the U.S., nearly 30 percent of children are overweight or obese – that’s one in every three kids. The state of Pennsylvania is ranked 20th in childhood obesity with 29.7% considered overweight or obese, and frankly, that’s way too high.
“There is a rise in overweight and obese children, putting them at increased risk for many chronic diseases,” said Tonya Spada-Dixon, RN, LDN – Clinical Nutrition Manager, Food and Nutrition, Conemaugh Health System.
As part of our commitment to making communities healthier, Conemaugh Health System is proud to support National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, an initiative aimed at decreasing obesity rates among the nation’s youth. This disease affects more than 12 million children between the ages of two and 19, and can lead to long-term health problems including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and even premature death. We want to help change that.
According to Spada-Dixon, there are several small steps families can take to ensure their children get the right start in life and set the stage for a lifelong commitment to healthy living.
Eat colorfully. Introducing your children to a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables will help them develop healthy eating habits. For breakfast, try oatmeal or yogurt with fresh fruit instead of sugary cereals and breakfast pastries. For lunch, pack carrot chips, celery sticks, apple slices, grapes and other fun fruits and vegetables that are filling and also taste good. For dinner, let your kids help you cook – they may be more likely to eat their vegetables if they help prepare them.
Teach mindful eating. Mindless eating is something most of us will be guilty of at one point or another. Help your children learn to be mindful of what they are eating, when they are eating, and why they are eating. Try to keep food limited to the kitchen, discourage your children from eating while watching television, and encourage your kids to play outside to curb snacking when they may not even be hungry.
Exercise regularly. It’s no secret that children are little imitators, and they will pick up the habits of the adults in their lives. If you make exercise an important part of your routine, chances are, they will do the same. And the good news is, it doesn’t have to be an intense, seven-days-a-week sweat fest. Taking evening walks as a family or playing outside with your children are fun and easy ways to incorporate exercise into your routine and be a good example for your kids.
Taking these small steps now can add up and have a big impact on the overall health and well-being of you and your children. At Conemaugh Health System we also recommend regular wellness exams with a primary care physician. Annual checkups help ensure that your child is growing and developing properly and also help detect potential health problems in their earliest stages. If you need to find a primary care physician, visit conemaugh.org.redesign.in10sitybeta.net and search our physician finder or call 1-800-587-5875. For nutrition information, call 814-534-9454.