Content Reviewers:Rishi Desai, MD, MPH
With obesity rates rising for children worldwide, it’s important for everyone, including parents, teachers, and all caregivers, to know what they can do to help children avoid gaining unhealthy amounts of weight.
With the exception of a very few children, obesity is most often the result of unhealthy eating habits.
Some important other related factors include a person’s genetics, environment, behavior, and socioeconomic status.
Childhood obesity leads to long-term health consequences that last into adulthood.
Obesity also comes with social stigma that can lead to low self-esteem, bullying, or other forms of mistreatment.
If children are already overweight or obese, there are various ways to help them return to a healthy weight - including working with their pediatrician, dietitians, physical therapists, and behavioral counselors.
Now, preventing obesity starts with a conversation about healthy eating behaviors including what, when, and how much to eat as well as how much physical activity to get.
Here are three practices for home and school to help children build healthy eating habits for life: limit sugar intake, control portion size, and pay attention to the types of food children eat.
One of the first things that can be done is limiting sugar intake, particularly sweet beverages.
Children between ages 2 to 18 years old should consume less than 25g, or roughly 6 teaspoons, of added sugar each day.
This is less sugar than many may realize.
One can of soda contains about 39 grams, or 9 teaspoons of sugar.
Juice also contains concentrated sugar even though it’s a natural product.
One apple juice carton contains about 28 grams, or 7 teaspoons of sugar.
Having either one of these beverages is more sugar than a child should be consuming in an entire day, so it’s best to stick to water.
Next, is controlling portion size, which varies based on the age and height of the child.
In order to help estimate what each of the serving sizes looks like, some people use different parts of the eater’s hand – an adult’s hand for an adult’s portion and a child’s hand for a child’s portion.