Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. It's particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to cardiac health problems once considered adult problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The best way to combat childhood obesity, and prevent your child from acquiring heart diseases, is by following a heart healthy diet and staying active. Simple changes to your child’s lifestyle could make a big difference in their physical and mental well-being.
How Can I Make My Child’s Diet Healthier?
A healthy diet is the best way to ensure your child avoids high blood pressure, high cholesterol or obesity, all of which can lead to heart disease. Adolescents and children with heart disease can show no symptoms, but if their condition is left untreated, their risk for adult-onset diabetes increases.
Here are simple ways to make your child’s diet healthier:
- Prepare your child’s plate to have smaller portions – using a salad plate rather than a dinner plate can help you not overserve.
- Try to follow the My Plate recommendations for kids – and fill half their plate with fruits and veggies.
- Substitute refined grains for whole grains (e.g., whole wheat bread for white bread).
- Mix up your child’s protein to see what they like – beans, lentils, poultry, seafood, and meats are all good protein sources for children.
- Encourage water or low fat or dairy free milk for lunch and dinner and limit sports drinks, juices and sodas.
How Can I Help My Child Be More Active?
Regular physical activity can help your child regulate their blood pressure, cholesterol levels and weight gain. For children ages 6-17, it is recommended that they get at least 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical aerobic activity.
To start, find fun, physical activities your child will want to participate in, which can be as simple as walking to a local playground rather than driving, playing catch at the park or riding their bike around the neighborhood. The easiest way to help your child feel safe and have fun is to help them find social physical activities they can do with their peers.
If your child has issues with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or obesity, the Children’s Heart Institute at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach has a team of expert physicians, nurses, and dietitians who work together to create personalized exercise and diet plans that can help manage your child’s weight and promote overall health and well-being. The Institute believes that through combination of regular physical activity and a healthy diet, children with diabetes can lead happy and active lives.