Fighting Childhood Obesity
When it comes to childhood obesity, training and education starts at home. Teaching children eat healthy food and get plenty of activity in their day makes a big difference in weight management and healthier living. It affects kids today and when they become adults. Dr. Judith Palfrey is Director, Center for Global Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital Boston, Senior Associate in Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston and the T. Berry Brazelton Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, offer these 5 tips for healthier living and helping kids avoid childhood obesity.
Top 5 Tips from a Pediatrician on Managing Childhood Obesity
What advice does Dr. Palfrey give her pediatric patients and their families headed toward a potential problem with obesity? 1) Eat healthy; 2) Get physical activity; 3) Limit screen time; 4) Get a good night’s sleep; and 5) Make it a family affair.
“We now have several good tools to help families eat healthier. MyPlate is a great tool for kids to see what their daily meals should look like—how many fruits and veggies, how much protein, etc. And MyPlate works just as well for adults as it does for kids,” she adds. But what if you have a kid who swears off all fruits and veggies? “Picky eaters can pose a challenge for parents but typically it’s just a phase that kids go through and they can grow out of it. Parents have to be creative, and make healthy food fun. Whether it’s making a healthy sandwich shaped like a butterfly or playing games with your kids while they try new foods, keep at it, eventually you’ll win them over.” For physical activity, Dr. Palfrey recommends that kids get 60 minutes of exercise each day. It’s easier to do if you have access to safe parks and open spaces but if you don’t, scroll down to “Make a Play Street” to see how PHA is working to solve that problem.
While screen time may not seem to be directly related to childhood obesity problems, it is. “Parents have to limit the amount of time their children spend in front of the computer, TV and playing video games and instead encourage them to play and get physical activity,” says Dr. Palfrey. Screen time also factors into getting a good night’s sleep. Dr. Palfrey advises that parents “remove the TV from your child’s bedroom. It’s too tempting to leave it on at bedtime and it actually is detrimental to sleep, which is extremely important to overall health.” Finally, to keep these changes from being short-lived, the whole family has to get into the act. “We’ve recognized that childhood obesity is a community and family affair. We want not only our nation’s children to be healthy, but families, and our whole society. First Lady Michelle Obama has been very effective at showing us how to be fit and healthy and showing families how to make healthy choices easier. We have to all get into the act—parents are their child’s best example.”
Some of Dr. Palfrey’s favorite resources for families can be found here: ChopChop magazine.
Dr. Judith Palfrey is Director, Center for Global Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital Boston, Senior Associate in Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston and the T. Berry Brazelton Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School.