Healthy Choices and Obesity
by Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH
For moms who want to help prevent overweight and obesity in their children, three strategies work best. Kids need to get enough sleep, avoid watching too much TV, and be active on a regular basis to maintain a healthy body weight, according to the results of a study presented at the 11th European Nutrition Conference in Madrid in October.
Early to Bed
Establish a bedtime routine and a regular bedtime for your child, and then stick with it. The study found that children sleeping less than nine hours a night were twice as likely to be overweight compared to children who slept 11 hours at night. Children sleeping nine to 10 hours a night had a 1.3-fold higher chance of being overweight.
Off with the TV
Children younger than 2 years old don’t benefit from TV time at all, and those older than 2 should watch it very sparingly. In this study, the researchers identified a number of obesity promoting behaviors, and TV watching was the most strongly linked.
Children who engage in active play spend less time in front of the television and are more likely to eat nutritious diets. They’re also less likely to become overweight.
For busy moms who are exhausted after a long day of work, it’s easy to understand the desire to plop your child down in front of the television with a cup of juice and a bowl of mac and cheese. Unfortunately, the consequences of regularly following this course of action can be a lifetime of weight issues, poor health, and unhappiness for children. Look for simple solutions. Plan and prepare nutritious meals ahead of time, and make it a family tradition to eat at the table with the television off. Spend at least a half hour a day in active play with your child, even if you have to do it in three 10-minute sessions, and then encourage your child to continue to play actively without you. Raising a happy, healthy child takes a lot of hard work and determination, but the end result is, of course, priceless.