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Combating Childhood Obesity: Tips for Parents


By Dr. Tamara Sheffield

Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States - with about one in three children or teens overweight or obese, according to the American Heart Association. Fortunately, much of it is preventable, and a free national campaign - called the LiVe Campaign - is working to make prevention a reality of its own.

It's crucial to prevent childhood obesity, because obese children have a 70-80 percent chance of being overweight for their entire life. Those who are overweight and obese face such other health risks as increased chance of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. More than 85 percent of people with Type 2 Diabetes are overweight. Additionally, there is an increased rate of certain types of cancer.

The LiVe Campaign has been created by Intermountain Healthcare, the Utah-based healthcare system frequently cited as one of the leading healthcare systems in the nation. The Campaign uses an interactive website - with games and videos, tips and advice - to engage children and teens with a funny, irreverent, but always positive, message that encourages them to eat healthier and be more active. Intermountain Healthcare has also launched a free LiVe Campaign app for mobile devices, now available at the iTunes Store and Android Market. The website and app are both designed for kids and teens to learn important nutrition information while having fun.

Here are some tips for parents from Intermountain Healthcare and the LiVe campaign:

  • When children are not in school (during spring and summer vacations, for instance), parents should help keep their children active by limiting screen time. Time spent in front of a television or computer should be scheduled and regulated. When the scheduled time is over, screen time should end with no exceptions.
  • The whole family should get involved in staying active. A family hike, for instance, can replace dinner out at a restaurant. 
  • Sugary drinking can be just as dangerous to health as sugary eating. Drinks high in sugar content, including those marketed as sport beverages, should be limited. 
  • Walking is crucial to keeping weight down. The LiVe Campaign has developed the "Park Further" initiative, encouraging people to park in the furthest spot available in public parking lots. Steady compliance with simple initiatives like that can have a meaningful impact on weight. 
  • Families should make the effort to eat together at night. Doing so promotes healthier eating choices and provides valuable time together.
  • When and how you shop matters. Avoid shopping when you're already hungry, you'll be drawn to the unhealthy foods. While grocery shopping, stick to the perimeter of the store, that's where the healthiest freshest foods are. Try to buy enough food to last until your next trip to the grocery store. If you have healthy food at home, you'll be less likely to order in or snack unhealthily. 
  • Consult a physician, if you think a diet is needed. Children should never be put on diets without the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional.

For more information on healthy eating habits and fun ways to exercise, visit the LiVe Campaign at www.IntermountainLiVe.org.

Source: Intermountan Healthcare

Posted May 11, 2011