12:00 PM

Obesity in Children: How Parents Can Help

Childhood obesity in the U.S. is growing at an alarming rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the obesity rate among U.S. children and teens has tripled since 1980.

“Most children become overweight due to a combination of consuming too many sugary drinks or high calorie foods, lack of enough physical activity and other lifestyle issues,” says Kimberly Brown, MD, with the Children’s Clinic at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–17th Street.

To help combat this growing epidemic, parents can make these three positive changes in their children’s lives, as recommended by LVHN experts:

  1. Get your child moving. “Children need at least 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity every day,” Brown says. This can include fun aerobic activities like playing tag and jumping rope. Set a positive example for your children by being active yourself. Try taking a family walk, dancing, biking or playing an outdoor game together as often as you can.
  2. Emphasize fruits and vegetables. Following a healthier diet helps to prevent or improve overweight. Keep soda and chips out of the house, or have them only on special occasions. Try serving your children kid-friendly snacks like fruit smoothies, raw veggies with yogurt dip, or celery with peanut butter.
  3. Watch portion sizes. Over the past few decades, portions of food in both grocery stores and restaurants have increased dramatically. Make sure your children’s food intake stays within the USDA recommendations for appropriate portion sizes for each food group. “One serving of grains, for example, is just a half-cup of spaghetti or one regular slice of bread,” Brown says.

Visit LVHN.org/children to learn more about how Lehigh Valley Health Network cares for children and to find a doctor in our network.