I hope you are enjoying (surviving?) back to school time! In this post I want to discuss a topic that is near and dear to my heart- keeping kids a healthy weight. Prior to my time as an In-Store Nutritionist for Giant, I worked in the oldest and largest pediatric weight management center in the US and saw thousands of kids and families striving to achieve their best health through improved nutrition, exercise, and behavior changes. While childhood obesity stats have improved in recent times, 1 in 6 kids in the US has obesity, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than the 95th percentile for age. As parents it can be tough to determine when weight needs to be addressed, so if you have questions or concerns your first stop is always the pediatrician. That being said, there are a few things that all families can do to prevent childhood obesity- and to truly just promote health for the whole fam in general. Here are some evidence-based guidelines for obesity prevention in kids and teens:
Ditch the juice… and most sugar-sweetened beverages. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans now recommend that no more than 10% of our total calorie intake comes from added sugar. For a child who needs 1500 calories per day, that’s 150 calories or 36g sugar. To put that in perspective, a regular sports drink has 21g sugar per serving and 53g per bottle. Most kids do not need any sugar sweetened beverages. Instead, try water with a squirt of fruit juice to add flavor or make a fun spritzer with seasonal fruits!
Include fruits and veggies with every meal. I say this probably 20 times per day, but a fact’s a fact! Research says that kids (and adults) who eat more fruits and veggies tend to be a more healthy body weight. To get an idea of how much the whole family needs, visit www.choosemyplate.gov. Fruits and veggies don’t have to be boring! Try a seasonal fruit (apples!) and combine with a family favorite (oatmeal!).
Eat family meals. Evidence says that families who eat together at home are more likely to have healthy weights. Taco Tuesday, anyone?
HBO Go… Outside! Between sitting all day in school and the endless options for screen time, most kids are pretty inactive on school days. Encourage at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily- even if that means a family dance party!
Allow for treats. This may seem counterintuitive, but parental over-restriction of highly palatable foods can backfire. If kids know that they can have treats on occasion they might be less likely to sneak food or overindulge. And let’s face it- we all need a little treat sometimes!
For more information about pediatric weight management prevention and treatment, please do not hesitate to reach out! I am happy to be a resource, either as a dietitian for your child or to steer you in the direction of someone who can help!
Until next time… eat well!
Emily Craft, RDN, CSP, LDN is an in-store nutritionist for Giant Food. Emily has her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Delaware and completed her Dietetic Internship through Sodexo in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Emily’s background is in pediatrics and weight management and she loves helping families come together to enjoy healthy, delicious meals. For more information, go to https://giantfood.com/live-well/health-and-wellness/nutritionists/.