Preventing Childhood Obesity: 4 Things Families Can Do
Childhood obesity is a complex disease with many contributing factors, including genetics, eating patterns, physical activity levels, and sleep routines. Conditions where we live, learn, work, and play can make healthy eating and getting enough physical activity difficult if these conditions do not support health.
There are many ways parents and caregivers can help children have a healthy weight and set up lifelong healthy habits at home:
Model a Healthy Eating Pattern
Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are often less expensive than fresh and still good for you. Look for low sodium or no salt added vegetables and fruits packed in 100% fruit juice. Help your children get the nutrients they need by making half their plate fruits and vegetables.
Move More as a Family
Physically active youth have stronger muscles and bones, better cardiovascular fitness, and lower body fat than those who are inactive. Children aged 3–5 years should be physically active throughout the day. Children aged 6–17 years need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Help your children move more and meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans by making it a family affair. Walking the family pet before and after school, riding bikes, and having races in the yard all count toward physical activity. Active chores, such as washing the car, vacuuming a room, or raking leaves, also count.
Set Consistent Sleep Routines
Good sleep helps prevent type 2 diabetes, obesity, injuries, and problems with attention and behavior. Kids who don’t get enough sleep are at risk for unhealthy weight gain. Preschoolers need 11–13 hours of sleep per day, including naps. Children 6–12 years old need 9–12 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, and youth 13–18 need 8–10 hours. Sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, including on weekends, can help children sleep better.
Replace Screen Time with Family Time
In young people, too much screen time can lead to poor sleep, weight gain, lower grades in school, and poor mental health. Reducing screen time can free up time for family activities and can remove cues to eat unhealthy food.
Turning screens off an hour before bed and removing screens from children’s bedrooms can help reduce screen time and improve sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends creating a family media plan with examples of how to reduce screen time.
Families can adopt healthy routines together, but they also need supportive environments. Learn more about what can be done to make healthy and active living accessible for everyone.