The average American child spends a significant amount of their leisure time watching television, playing video games, or playing on the computer. While there are some shows and games that are educational and can do some good, most of the time is spent “vegging” in front of nothing. The result, childhood obesity. Children are not burning off enough of the calories they’re eating and therefore obesity rates continue to increase.
What causes childhood obesity?
There are several different things that can lead to childhood obesity from environmental to genetic factors. It’s important to realize however that typically weight gain occurs because you’re consuming more calories than you’re expending. Let’s look at some different causes of childhood obesity:
· Expended calories vs. consumed calories. This is without a doubt the most common factor in obesity and the sad part about it is that parents are usually responsible. It has been proven that children that spend most of their leisurely time in sedentary activities are more likely to become obese children. If you’re going to feed your children high calorie foods it is also your responsibility to get them out and active so they can work off what they’ve eaten.
· Fast food. Fast food has become almost a necessity in our society; thriving on busy schedules and no time to prepare meals Americans are famous for eating out. Places like Wendy’s, Arby’s and the notorious McDonald’s are probably three of the most popular fast food restaurants Americans dine at. You can imagine what a burger, fries and a soda will do for your diet if you eat them more than four times a week.
· Portion Sizes. Americans are also famous for overeating and serving themselves with larger portion sizes than what is recommended. Children are unfortunately guilty of this as much as adults are.
What can we do about childhood obesity?
There are several different ways to approach childhood obesity and several different things parents, as well as our communities can do to help:
· Extra curricular activities are a great way to get your child involved with classmates and keeping them physically fit. Many communities will offer seasonal sports to children of all ages including soccer, baseball, gymnastics classes, tennis, etc. If you can get your child excited about staying active they are more likely to embrace it.
· Childhood obesity should not just be an individual problem. Changing family behaviors is one way to help children change their behaviors. Instead of stocking up on chips and candy at the grocery store, head for the fruit and vegetable section and pick out some good snacks. Look for crackers, low sugar fruit drinks, and help your child make good nutritional choices.
· Limiting the amount of television and computer/ video games you children watch and play can help drastically decrease the obesity rates. Instead of sitting around the television take your kids outside or somewhere they can run around for a while.
Parents need to take a greater responsibility for what their children are eating, when they’re eating, and how much they’re eating. Teaching them about living a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and physical fitness is also part of beating childhood obesity. Children cannot be expected to know what to eat or what proper portion sizes are unless we begin to teach them.