Childhood Obesity: The Answers are Simple in Theory

The commonly sited stat that one-in-three U.S. children are overweight is striking. In the last 30 years, children being overweight has doubled, and adolescents being obese has tripled. This should get your attention whether your children are heavy or not. There is a strong likelihood that overweight children will be overweight adults. These numbers represent a huge impact to our future economy and to the future of healthcare costs.

The answers given by the experts seem simple. Less screentime, healthier food choices and more exercise. That’s it.

Less Screentime: Decide your limits and stick with them.

  • Zero to Three recommends no screentime for children two years old and younger, a half-hour a day as a maximum for children two to three years old and an hour a day as a maximum for older children.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests no screentime for children two years old and younger and two hours a day as a maximum for older children.
  • This screentime includes tablets, phones, computers and TVs.
  • Related to obesity, many of the advertisements during children’s programming is for sugary foods and fast foods.
  • Screentime tends to be a sedentary activity.

Healthier Food Choices: Learn and teach your children about healthy choices and healthy portions.

  • Encourage fruits and vegetables.
  • Encourage children to eat a wide range of healthy foods.
  • Think healthy fats, whole grains, lean meats.
  • Teach your children about foods, explore tastes and textures.
  • Encourage them to shop and prepare foods with you.

More Exercise: Get your family moving more!

  • The Center for Disease Control suggests children and adolescents should have 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • This should include aerobic activity, muscle strengthening and bone strengthening activities.
  • Make it fun.
  • Get moving with them!

Benefits of Eating as a Family

Here are a few reasons to make eating as a family a priority:

  • Children learn valuable life skills – There is benefit in children learning how to prepare and cook food, as well as how to clean the table. This sounds crazy, but I have fond memories of washing and drying dishes after meals at my grandparents’ house. Maybe these are fond memories because we had a dishwasher at home.
  • It’s a chance to reconnect socially – Eating together regularly gives families an opportunity to check in with each other, share their day and laugh together. As a basic, this is time to teach children how to carry conversations and how to ask and answer questions.
  • Build and share family traditions – While this may be a small piece, it’s a chance to pass along blessings and prayers. In some families, this can be a time to share recipes.
  • You can model healthy eating habits – Parents tend to provide children a wider range of foods when families sit and eat together. Modeling healthy eating habits is a nice, low key way to encourage them to eat.
  • You can teach and practice manners – Table manners are a learned skill that’s best taught over time with lots of repetition. Try to make this fun with related storybooks and games.
  • It’s related to better long term childhood outcomes – Children who regularly eat at least five meals a week with their families show higher academic scores, lower rates of later behavior problems and lower rates of obesity.

To learn more about these ideas and ways to avoid picky eating habits and mealtime battles join me for my workshop on Managing Mealtimes & Picky Eaters, September 5 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. For more information and to register, please visit

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