Children Obesity : How To Control Obesity in Children

The childhood obesity and the number of overweight children is increasing rapidly like an epidemic; the fact is that obesity in children has increased by more than 50 percent in the last two decades. Do you have an obese child?

Obesity as bad as Chain Smoking for Teens. Obese teenage boys are as likely to die young similar to those who smoke more than half a pack of cigarettes a day, a Swedish Karolinska Institute study reported in Feb 2009? The normal-weight heavy smokers and the non-smoking obese individuals have exactly the same risk,? revealed the study.

International Epidemic of Child Obesity
One in every 5 children in USA is overweight while every 4th child is overweight in Australia. In USA, prevalence of obese children (Ages 6 to 11) at the 95th percentile of Body Mass Index (BMI) in 1999 to 2000 was 15.3%. If the parents do not control, this number of childhood obesity, teen obesity and overweight children will grow significantly in near future.

Definition of Obesity in Children Toddlers

The overweight children are those who weigh 20 percent more than their ideal weight. The obese children are those who weigh 40 percent or more above their ideal weight.

The vulnerable period to start excess weight gain in toddlers is 3 and 4 years of their age. So the children of this age must get an hour of active play each day along with five fruits and vegetables, according to Dr. Stephen Daniels of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

Percentile of Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to identify overweight and obesity in children and adolescents.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggest two levels of overweight: (a) the 85th percentile (BMI of 25), an "at risk" or reference level, and (b) the 95th percentile (BMI of 25), the obesity level. Note that the 95th percentile corresponds to a BMI of 30, which is considered obesity in adults.

The Causes

The main causes of children becoming overweight (i.e. childhood obesity and teenage obesity) are lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating habits, genetic reasons, or a combination of these. Obesity develops when the energy intake exceeds energy expenditure from physical activity.

With the advent of electronic revolution, children and teens now remain glued to TVs, electronic games, videos, and DVDs for most of the time and devote little time in outdoor activities. Along with this they eat a lot of junk foods loaded with fat, cholesterol, and sugar. This a very good recipe for gaining weight.

The Journal of Law and Economics reports in November 2008 that banning fast food advertisements from children?s television programs would reduce the number of overweight children in the US by 18% and decrease the number of overweight teens by 14%.

Only 2 hours are recommenced for a child to watch TV each day. Two recent studies reported in the Journal of Pediatrics (2005) reported that every extra hour of weekend TV at age 5 increased by 7% the chances of being obese at age 30. Also 11 year old girls who watched TV more than 2 hours in a day were more than twice as likely to be overweight as girls who watched less.

The Baby body mass index value can help you determine if your child is overweight.

USDA in April 2005 released it's interactive dietary guidelines, My pyramid based on a new food pyramid. The old food pyramid recommended one food size for all people without consideration on exercise, so many children today are faced with weight problems. See details on Mypyramid for kids at

How much fat for Children and adolescents?

Keep total fat intake between 30 to 35 percent of calories for children 2 to 3 years of age and between 25 to 35 percent of calories for children and adolescents 4 to 18 years of age, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, such as fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.

Limit on ghee which is high in saturated fat.

Obesity Facts on Child Obesity

A study (2005) on feeding Infants & Toddlers by Gerber Products Co, Mathematica Policy Research Inc. revealed that the eating habits that are fueling an epidemic of obesity are starting in the crib. Note what US infants and toddlers eat daily.


    Number of Children Eating
    9 - 11
months old
    9 - 11
months old
French Fries9%21%
Hot Dogs, Sausage or Becon7%25%
Sweetened Beverages4%23%

Governments, parents and schools should do their part to prevent it.
What Parents should do?

Children learn very quickly from their parents. So parents can be the most important role models for children. Parents should create an active and healthy eating environment at home.

Responsibility of Parents

  1. Increase physical activity:
    Healthy eating habits combined with regular physical activity is the most effective way to control weight. Regular physical activity is important not only for your children, but also for all the memebrs of the family. Any type of physical activity is good. burn different number of calories.
  2. Limit the amount of TV watching. Only 2 hours are recommenced for a child to watch TV each day. Two recent studies reported in the Journal of Pediatrics (2005) reported that every extra hour of weekend TV at age 5 increases by 7% the chances of being obese at age 30. Also 11 year old girls who watch TV more than 2 hours in a day are more than twice as likely to be overweight as girls who watched less.
  3. Involve children in household activities like vacuuming, spreading of washed clothes on clothe lines for drying, washing the car, gardening or mowing the lawn.
  4. Entire family should participate in regular physical activities like walking, jogging or bicycling.
  5. Encourage your child to participate in at least one of such activities as tennis, gymnastics, swimming, Volleyball, etc.
  6. Implement the same healthy diet (rich in fruits, vegetables and grains) for your entire family.
  7. Set an example for your children:
    When your children are young, they depend on you for guidance for foods. You can stop them becoming overweight. Your child observe you and follow you and that becomes his habit. If your child is overweight, it is you who are responsible. Set an example for your children. You should be physically active. You should be eating a healthy diet.
  8. Healthy eating habits:
    If you look at the fat, sugar, and energy contents of the foods your family eat, you will know why your family members are overweight. You can always train your children to eat healthy. You should
    • at least 3 meals a day.
    • eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day.
    • drink plain water when thirsty, and do not drink soda, coke, etc.
    • eat takeaways and junk foods once a while.
    • eat healthy snacks.
    • Learn to swap healthy foods for junk foods.
  9. Eat meals together at the dinner table at regular times. Do not watch TV while eating. Glycemic index food list.
  10. All should eat healthy nutritious food (fruits, vegetables and grains). Avoid foods that are high in calories, fat or sugar. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "51 percent of children and adolescents eat less than one serving a day of fruit, and 29 percent eat less than one serving a day of vegetables that are not fried."
  11. Children who eat a low glycemic index (GI) breakfast shows improved memory and attention. Good low-GI breakfast foods include muesli with low fat milk, fruits, yogurt, wholegrain toast.
  12. Keep the serving size small.
  13. Limit fast foods to no more than once per week.

    The Worse Healthy Foods

    Many foods marketed for children are often advertised as healthy. But some are worse than junk food because of their sugar and saturated fat content. The worse healthy foods, according to this report, are Cow & Gate''s Baby Balance Bear Biscuits, Farley''s Original Rusks and Heinz Toddler Mini Cheese Biscuits.

  14. As a parent you must see that you do not send your child to parties that are hosted at junk foods restaurants. Now a days it has become a fashion to arrange kids birthday parties at McDonalds, Bowling clubs, Chukky Cheezes, and similar places. If you host a party at such places, you should check the menu. These places normally have playing rooms for kids with swings, balloons and other colorful things to attract the children.
  15. Have you ever thought about the menu at a sleep over party. Normally a cheese pizza and coke along with candies are served for dinner at these parties. This is not a healthy menu. As a parent, you should serve healthy foods in sleep over parties. The same menu is served in parties hosted at Bowling clubs and similar places. By sending your children to such parties and arranging such parties, you are spoiling your child's health.

Responsibility of Schools

Schools can play a major role in prevention of obesity. Schools should offer children to participate in physical activities. They should teach importance of healthy eating and physical activities in their courses.

  1. School Principles, Headmasters and Administrators should ensure that the school canteen do not sell junk foods like soft drinks, potato chips, cheese pizzas, salami, donuts, full fat ice creams, etc. School canteens should be banned to keep and sale these junk foods.
  2. Each school should have a compulsory physical training and games period where the children should actively participate. Even their performance report should hilight the child's interest and ability in such activities. In India, this is used to be the practice in all schools.
  3. Each school should have a compulsory subject on nutrition and healthy foods at all levels.

Responsibility of Government

  1. The government of all countries should ban on showing Ads on TVs for junk food products and unhealthy fast foods, especially during children programs. You must have noticed that most of the food advertisements on TV target children. They want to sell to children, because it will continue their sales as they grow.
    The Government should give some incentives to the companies showing Ads for healthy foods.
  2. Educate parents and children through TV programs, awareness programs, incentives, etc.
  3. Direct schools not to sell unhealthy foods like soft drinks (a glass of soft drink contains 10 or even more teaspoon of sugar), potato chips, pizzas, donuts, etc.
  4. Direct schools to include courses on nutrition and healthy foods at all levels.

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