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Preventing childhood obesity

Did you know about 1 in 5 American children has obesity?

September is childhood obesity awareness month, a complex disease with many contributing factors.

“Preventing childhood obesity is a big step to preventing problems down the road,” said Paul Korth, Cookeville Regional CEO. “Children who are overweight are at a higher risk for asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.”

But there are things that can be done early so children have a healthy weight and set up lifelong healthy habits at home.

Adopt a model healthy eating pattern.

Adopting healthy eating patterns as a family helps children reach and maintain a healthy weight as they age. Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean protein foods and low-fat and fat-free dairy products follows nutritional guidelines and set the family up for optimal health.

Another piece of advice is to make sure their plates consists of half fruit and half vegetable. Replace sugary drinks, such as soda, fruit drinks and flavored milk, with water, 100 percent juice or plain low-fat milk.

Move more.

Physically active youth have stronger muscles and bones, better cardiovascular fitness and lower body fat than those who are inactive. Children 3-5 years of age should be physically active through the day, whereas children 6-17 years of age need at least one hour of physical activity every day.

Make it a family affair. Walk the family pet before and after school, ride bikes and have races in the yard. Better yet, wash the car, vacuum a room or rake leaves. Fall is coming up fast!

Sleep is essential.

Getting good sleep helps prevent type 2 diabetes, obesity, injuries, poor mental health, and problems with attention and behavior. Kids who don’t get enough sleep are at risk for unhealthy weight gain.

Preschoolers are recommended to get 11-13 hours of sleep per day, including naps. Children 6-12 years old need 9-12 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night while those 13-18 years of age need 9-10 hours.

It’s essential to stick to a consistent sleep schedule.

Replace screen time with family time.

Too much screen time can lead to poor sleep, weight gain, lower grades in school and poor mental health. Reducing screen time can free up time for family activities and can remove cues to eat unhealthy food.

Turning screens off an hour before bed and removing screens from children’s bedrooms can help reduce screen time and improve sleep.

Talk to your child’s pediatrician about any concerns you may have.