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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Children


Help Children With
Healthy Habits

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD,
Nutrition and Health Education Specialist in Barton County
University of Missouri Extension

News reports in a variety of media have recently been informing us that we have a problem with children exceeding weight limits on car seats. Car seat makers are increasing the size of car seats to assure these children stay safe but there is still the issue of the long-term impact of childhood overweight.


Encourage activity and be active with your children.

Healthcare professionals measure overweight in childhood by plotting height and weight on a growth chart. If weight for height is between the 85th and 95th percentile, the child is considered at risk for overweight. A child or teen at or above the 95th percentile is considered overweight.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the prevalence of overweight for 6-11 year old children has increased from 7% in 1980 to almost 19% in 2004. As a result of being overweight, children have an additional risk factor for heart disease, high blood pressure, bone and joint problems, and asthma. It is estimated that one in three American children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime. According to the National Institutes of Health, most diagnosis of type 2 diabetes in children occur in those who are overweight. Diagnosis such as these will greatly impact the quality of life for these children.

In addition to the risk for disease, there is an increased risk for low self-esteem and depression in children who are overweight. Overweight children often cannot keep up with the other children at recess and may be teased as a result.

Weight loss is not recommended for most children. The key is establishing healthy habits for the entire family. Encourage activity and be active with your children. The activity does not need to be a formal activity that requires skill. It can be as simple as raking and jumping into a pile of leaves. Limit television watching. We just don’t burn calories watching TV. Involve children in menu planning and meal preparation and eat together as a family. Limit the number of sugar-sweetened drinks. One of these drinks can have more than 100 calories and that is 1/10 of the calories needed for some two and three year old children. Let children choose their snacks from healthy choices you keep on hand.

Establishing and maintaining healthy habits is one of the best gifts you can give to your children. You will be teaching them to make the healthiest choice, which will impact their health for a lifetime.




Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009








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