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Obesity Awareness
last updated:
Mon, 9/26/2011 3:31 PM

In honor of National Childhood Obesity Month, Katelyn Wolfe, MS, RD, LDN, a clinical dietitian at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, shares some ways to help encourage your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

September 2011 has been proclaimed by President Obama to be National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.  Why raise awareness for obesity?  More than 23 million children ages 2 – 19 in the U.S. are obese or overweight.  In fact, childhood obesity has increased more than fourfold among those ages 6 – 11 in recent years.  Obesity puts children at an early risk for diseases like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even stroke.

So, what is obesity?  For adults, a math equation that considers a person’s weight and height is used to determine a body mass index, or BMI.  The BMI number indicates if a person is underweight, normal, overweight or obese.  For children, the same math equation is used, but then the number is plotted onto a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) growth chart to determine what percentile the child is in relation to other children of the same age and sex.  For example, if a 6-year-old boy plots on the 75th percentile, that means his BMI is greater than 75 percent of all U.S. boys that are 6 years old and lesser than 25 percent of U.S. boys that are 6 years old.  To be considered obese as a child, the BMI must plot greater than or equal to the 95th percentile on the growth chart. 

Parents and community members can help to change the trend toward obesity in our community.  Try implementing these tips to fight or prevent childhood obesity:

  • Start the day with breakfast.  Research shows that those who eat breakfast are more likely be a healthy weight.  Whole grain cereal with low fat milk and a piece of fruit provides a satisfying meal that is easy to prepare.  If your family already eats breakfast, try to limit high-fat breakfast meats like sausage and bacon to no more than once or twice a week.
  • Focus on vegetables and fruits.  Veggies and fruits should make up half of our plates at meals.  Check out http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ for more about food groups. Try to serve a variety of colors each week, as different colored fruits and veggies provide different nutrients.
  • Be picky with beverages.  Kids need two to three glasses of low-fat or fat-free dairy daily.  Select milk and water over juices, sodas, tea or punch drinks.  If you serve juice, look for 100 percent fruit juice, and limit it to six-ounce daily for children younger than 6 and eight-ounce daily for children ages 6 and older.
  • Snack smartly.  Many snacks like chips, cheese crackers and candy provide calories but lack vitamins and minerals.  Consider snacks such as low-fat yogurt, string cheese, “light” popcorn, fruit or veggies with a dip to provide a tasty treat with important nutrients.
  • Get moving.  Kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily as party of a healthy lifestyle.  Activity can be “structured” like soccer, karate, track, swim practice or tee-ball or “unstructured” like playground time, tag, hula-hooping or bike-riding.  Either way, encourage your kids to play.  Make sure that your children are always safe and supervised.
  • Limit screen time.  Instead of TV or video games, encourage your family to get outside and be active.  If the weather is bad, do an indoor activity – be creative!
  • Set the example.  We cannot expect our children to try a new food like whole grain pasta or go for a walk instead of watching another hour of TV if we as parents and family members do not do so ourselves.  Lead by example for a healthy lifestyle.

Do you wonder if your child is overweight or obese?  Your primary care provider can assess your child and refer him or her to Le Bonheur’s Nutrition Clinic if your child needs nutrition counseling.


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Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center is a leading children's hospital in the Mid South, providing pediatric care to children from 95 counties in six states.
50 N. Dunlap Street, Memphis, Tennessee 38103 • (901) 287-KIDS