Preventing Childhood Obesity
According to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, one in three children is overweight or obese in North Carolina. The State of Obesity found that about 30 percent of 10- to 17-year-olds were overweight or obese in 2016. The most common factors that contribute to childhood obesity are increased sugar consumption and a sedentary lifestyle.
Much of the processed food that is made with children in mind is packed with added sugar, and a diet high in sugar can lead to weight gain and other chronic diseases like diabetes. Just changing something as small as everyday drink choices can significantly lower a child’s sugar intake. For example, juice is a common drink choice for kids, but many times it can contain more sugar than a can of soda! Switching to low- or no-sugar-added drinks, such as flavored or sparkling water, milk and plain water, and limiting sweet beverages to special occasions, can make a big impact on your child’s nutrition.
As of 2016, the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance found that only about 21 percent of 6- to 19-year-old children and adolescents in the United States got the recommended 60 or more minutes of physical activity at least five days per week. Physical activity is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, as it helps our body process food properly and can help prevent the development of chronic illnesses. If children are inactive, it is important for them to begin a regular exercise routine tailored to their physical capabilities. For example, jumping jacks are a good full-body workout that can be done at home.
Jennifer Badik, MD, is a pediatric endocrinologist at Pediatric Specialists at Wendover Ave and a member of Cone Health Medical Group.