According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years. Obesity is the result of too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed, and can be affected by various genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors. Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Obese adolescents are more likely to have pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels indicate a high risk for development of diabetes. Additionally, children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem. Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are therefore more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis. Obesity increases the risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The dietary and physical activity behaviors of children and adolescents are influenced by many sectors of society, including families, communities, schools, child care settings, faith-based institutions, the media, and the food and beverage industries and entertainment industries. Regardless of age, everyone needs the same nutrients, just in varying amounts. The responsibility to teach children how to make healthy food choices largely falls on the parents, and as any parent can attest, this proves a daunting task.
Healthy Eating for Toddlers & Preschoolers
After the first year of life, children’s growth slows and they require less food. When planning portions for this age group a good rule of thumb is 1 tablespoon of food for every year of age. It is better to serve a small amount of food and allow them to ask for more than to overwhelm them with a large initial portion. Children thrive on routine and will do best when following a regular eating schedule. It is always best when children learn to eat what the rest of the family is eating instead of being provided with a special meal, keep in mind however when new foods are introduced, it may take up to 10 times of the food being introduced and tasted for the new item to be accepted. With this in mind, children may be more accepting of new foods when they are introduced with a familiar favorite, so include food that you know the child will eat at each meal. Children are less likely to accept foods that were introduced during a negative meal situation, so making meal time an enjoyable family affair reinforces positive eating behaviors. Parental modeling may be the most influential factor when children are learning what to eat, so be sure you are practicing the good eating behaviors you would like your children to adopt. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is imperative in establishing healthy eating patterns for life and involving young children in planting and growing vegetables is an excellent way to draw the child’s interest healthy eating. This period of growth is a wonderful time to begin to establish physical activity habits. Physical fitness established at an early age can lower the risk that the child will become overweight or obese.
6-12 Years of Age
This stage is often referred to as the “latent time of growth” because the rate of growth slows and changes occur more gradually. This is also the period when inappropriate concepts of body image may take root, leading to chronic dieting or eating disorders. While energy needs may decline slightly, the quality of the diet is imperative to provide the necessary nutrition essential to school performance and physical demands and should focus on real, whole foods and limiting the amount of refined and processed foods. The school and home environments should be conducive to assisting these children in making appropriate food and activity choices.
The growth experienced during this can vary from child to child and metabolic rate as well as food needs will vary. The quantity as well as the quality of the food choices is also important during this period of rapid growth. Adequate supplies of iron, zinc, calcium and essential vitamins are important to fuel the changes in body size and development. Despite the critical nutritional needs during this stage, dietary surveys indicate that of all different age groups, adolescents have the poorest diets. It is important to stress to teens that healthy eating behaviors along with consistent physical activity can help to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, provide energy to meet the demands of school and work, and will increase the overall sense of well-being.
©Ellice Campbell 2013
- Preventing Obesity, Cancer Is A Year-Round Priority (smmirror.com)
- What Is Causing Childhood Obesity? (epicahealth.com)
- Helping your teen to nurture a healthy relationship with food (bangordailynews.com)
- Minister: poor families are likely to be obese (telegraph.co.uk)
- Childhood Obesity Linked To Wide Range Of Health Problems (huffingtonpost.com)
- Denouncing Daniel Callahan’s shameful strategy (kzawadzki88.wordpress.com)