In the United States, obesity is a serious issue amongst children and adolescents, but it is possible to keep children active and healthy without shaming them. According to the CDC, obesity affects 13.7 million children and adolescents.
Health risks of obesity in children include high blood pressure, asthma, sleep apnea, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and psychological issues such as low self- esteem, anxiety or depression.
Furthermore, ADHD, social limitations and an increased risk of cancer can also be effects of childhood obesity, according to Rebecca Liebes, PhD, RDN and Vice President of the Nutrition, Health and Wellness Division at the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio, Inc..
How can parents encourage children to eat healthier and exercise without shaming them or without focusing on their weight?
“Focus on the positive: offer fun activities such as jumping, running, climbing, hiding and seeking, and more,” Liebes advises. “Never weigh your child — that can be done at the pediatrician’s office and they can address it.”
Liebes recommends water as the choice of beverage and for parents to offer fruits and vegetables at every meal.
“[They do] not need to be fresh…they could be frozen or canned. All vegetables are good, including corn and potatoes, which sometimes get a bad reputation,” she explains.
Liebes also suggests that parents avoid commenting on children’s appearances, whether good or bad. It’s a parent’s job to select healthy food for children and the children’s job to decide how much they want to eat, she clarifies.
“Focus on offering healthy foods only, which are fruits, vegetables, beans, grains and limited nuts. Remember that no healthy child will starve because they don’t like the food they are offered,” she said.
The Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio offers a Kinship Navigator Program that supports relatives and grandparents raising children. Free nutrition counseling is offered for those 60 years and over or for anyone participating in the Kinship Navigator Program. Call 419-382-0624 for more information.