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Health and Wellness for Students and Families

Florida Department of Health in Taylor County

Childhood Obesity 

Childhood obesity is increasing in the United States at alarming rates Here are some interesting statistical trends to consider:

  • For the first time in the United States, a child born this year will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
  • Approximately 20% of children play sports everyday compared to 80% in 1969.
  • The average child spends 2 - 4 hours a day watching TV or on the computer everyday.
  • 25% of children born this year in the U.S. are projected to have diabetes in their lifetime.
  • 25% of the vegetables eaten in the United States are French fries.
  • On a daily basis, the average teenager is getting 15-20 teaspoons of added sugar in sugared drinks and this consumption has doubled over the last decade
  • Today a typical fast food hamburger contains about 618 calories compared to 210 calories in 1957
  • Death related to obesity (and the associated chronic diseases) will soon pass tobacco as the leading cause of death in the United States
  • Among children and teens ages 6-19 over 9 million are overweight in the United States according to the 1999-2002 data, or triple what the proportion was in 1980
  • Overweight children and adolescents are more likely to become overweight or obese adults. (Ferraro KF, Thorpe RJ Jr, Wilkinson JA. The life course of severe obesity: Does childhood overweight matter? Journal of Gerontology 2003;58B:S110-S119)
  • Less than two-thirds of High School children get more than 2 hours of exercise per week

If this trend in Childhood Obesity continues to grow uncontrollably, we may be raising the first generation of children in the United States who will have a shorter life expectancy than that of their parents. Parents are a key resource in identifying and understanding changes in their children's weight. As a parent you can help by being active and making healthy food choices everyday.

Tips for creating a healthy meal environment 

Developing healthy habits at a young age is very important since changes become more difficult with age. Healthy habits involving nutrition and physical activity are the foundation to preventing obesity in children and adolescents. A balance of a healthy meal and activity is the key to a healthy body.

Changing the way we eat:

  • Encourage your family to eat meals together at the dinner table at regular times.
  • Encourage your child to eat a healthy breakfast each day. Breakfast provides energy for him/her to perform well at school.
  • Avoid rushing through meals. Eating a meal quickly does not allow the body to digest the food properly and sense that the stomach is full.
  • Plan times with your family to prepare a meal together.
  • Avoid having other activities during the meals such as watching TV.
  • Follow a healthy meal plan for your entire family, not just a select individual.
  • Avoid forcing your child to eat if he/she is not hungry. If your child constantly refuses to eat, consult a health care professional.
  • Avoid using food as a reward or the lack of food as a punishment.

Choosing the right foods:

  • Avoid pre-packaged or prepared foods that are high in preservatives, sugars and fats.
  • Avoid serving portions that are too large for a child.
  • Limit drinks and foods that are high in sugar such as soda and candy.
  • Limit the amount of junk foods that are kept in your home.
  • Limit the frequency of fast food eating to no more than once a week.
  • Have snack foods available that are nutritious and low in calories such as fruits, vegetables and yogurt.
  • Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
  • Eat or drink 3 servings of low-fat milk or dairy products each day.
  • Eat foods that are low fat.
  • Choose foods that are high and rich in fiber.
  • Eat meats that are lean.
  • Drink plenty of water each day!

One of the best things that you as a parent can do is to limit the amount of TV/computer/game time for your child. Use this time to encourage your entire family to participate in an activity that everyone enjoys doing, such as walking, bicycling or roller skating. You can even involve your child in household activities that are considered a form of exercise, such as vacuuming, washing the car or picking up toys. Make a game out of it, and make it fun for both you and your family!