The sobering fact is that 1 in 3 children in America are either overweight or obese, placing them at risk for early onset diabetes, heart disease and even acid reflux. A sensible plan which leads to sustainable weight loss can prevent a lifelong battle with obesity and reduced self esteem.
According to a report in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, childhood obesity increases the incidence of gastric reflux by up to 40%. Reflux disease can lead to decreased quality of life, chronic respiratory conditions and increased risk of cancer of the esophagus.
Excess weight in children is linked to many of the same causes as adults. Too many poor quality calories, insufficient exercise and over consumption of food and drinks containing high fructose corn syrup lead to metabolic overload, as the body scrambles to store excess calories as fat.
Fortunately there are a number of important steps that parents can take to encourage natural weight loss in their children, and for the whole family.
Dump the Junk Food
The single most important step you can take to help your child lose weight and stay healthy is to limit calories from highly refined junk foods (chips, crackers, snacks), fast foods (fries, burgers and shakes) and sweetened soft drinks, including soda and fruit juices. These foods provide no nutrition and encourage fat storage at an early age.
Start by making small substitutions, such as a serving of vegetables for fries or stevia sweetened ice tea for sugary soft drinks. Slowly increase the substitutions until junk food is totally eliminated, or used just as a special incentive. These small steps will help prevent the onset of metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and ultimately diabetes.
Stay Active for Life
Studies show that children who are active at an early age tend to stay active and exercise on a regular schedule throughout their adult life. This is important, as exercise provide the fuel which switches the body into fat burning mode. Physical activity conditions the muscles and cells to properly utilize sugar from the blood, avoiding metabolic disease.
Make it fun, and target 45 to 60 minutes of activity per day, although it doesn’t have to be all at the same time. Walk the dog, pick up a quick game of basketball in the driveway or play Frisbee in the park. Are all ideal ways to remain active. Parental involvement is the key to making exercise a permanent part of your child’s life.
Eat Breakfast, Dine Out Less
The science behind successful weight loss is based on eating the most important meal of the day – breakfast. This is especially important for kids, as breakfast will supercharge their metabolic engine and provide them with the energy they need to take them through their busy daily schedule. Avoid sugared cereals and chocolate milk in favor of high protein, high fiber choices. Healthy options include a slice of whole grain bread with peanut butter or a bowl of naturally sweet mixed fruit and berries.
Cook meals at home where you can control ingredients as well as portion sizes. Turn it into a fun experience and involve your child in meal preparation. Not only will they enjoy eating more, but they’ll develop a healthy dietary lifestyle which will serve them through adulthood.
The best way you can help your child lose weight and remain healthy is to get involved and be a role model, leading the way through a reduced calorie, physically active lifestyle. Childhood obesity is at epidemic levels today because our kids have been overwhelmed with a barrage of marketing schemes from the large food manufacturers pushing countless different types of junk food. Use these foods only as a special treat, as you show your child how important it is to eat properly and exercise regularly for the rest of their lives.