Childhood Obesity: Promote Health, Prevent Problems

Preteen smiling as doctor checks him with a stethoscope How many times did you hear it growing up? “Comete todo.” Eat everything on your plate. Latinos have a hard time allowing children to leave the table without clearing their plate. And more, they feel that if their children are skinny, they’re unhealthy. Plump is healthy, in the eyes of many but at what point does it get to be too much?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 17 percent of children in the United States are obese, which calculates to 12.5 million children between 2-19 years of age. When it comes to obesity among low-income, pre-school children, about one-third of them are either overweight or obese before the age of 5.

Latino children from the ages of 2-4 have the second highest rate of obesity with 17.9 percent, after American Indian and Alaskan Native with 20.7 percent.

What are the cultural influences?

The majority of Latinos who emigrate to the United States are poor in their home countries and leave for a better life. The opportunity to have a vast array of food is seen as plentiful but at the same time, not the healthiest choices. Eating fast food, or food that isn’t necessarily healthy in the grocery store, becomes cultural and ingrained within Latino households and lifestyles. At the same time, food is cooked in the same manner as it was “back home” yet the choices for food in the U.S. aren’t the healthiest, filled with more preservatives and added chemicals that can cause additional weight gain.

While Latino the high-carbohydrate, fried-food diet may be the cause of childhood obesity, additional reasons lie in sedentary lifestyle because of where families live. Typically, lower-income neighborhoods where obesity is a problem, there is less access to healthy food options and less opportunity for physical activity. Between 2007-2009, Latino boys ages 2-19 had a higher rate of obesity than white boys and girls of the same age. This could be due to societal issues where boys are targets for violence, bullying and gang recruitment. Ultimately, it is safer to stay inside.

Side affects and problems due to childhood obesity

If children are not properly taken care of, there are various side affects and diseases that will result.

Obese youth are more likely be at risk for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Obese adolescents are at risk for prediabetes, a stage before diabetes where glucose levels are above normal.
Children and adolescents who are overweight or obese are more likely to have joint and bone problems, suffer from sleep apnea and have social and psychological problems like low self-esteem.

Obese children are also more likely to be obese as adults and become more likely to be at risk for cardiovascular disease, such as stroke and heart attack as well as Type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis.

Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gall bladder, thyroid, ovary, cervix, and prostate, as well as multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

What can parents do to help prevent childhood obesity?

Parents need to take into consideration the issues that their children may be at risk for dependent on what they are eating. Many of the tips that adults take into consideration for their own health should be applied to their children.

          Easy tips to help with weight loss and improved health

Lay off the soda pop and sugary drinks. People have been known to lose 10 pounds or more if they are heavy soda drinkers. Cutting all the sugar out may help lose weight and get a start to kicking bad habits. This also includes drinks like Carpi Sun and juice boxes that are not 100 percent juice. Gatorade and Powerade or any other sports drinks should only be consumed after at least 30 minutes of exercise.
Drink more water. Water is known to help with losing weight and helping flush out waste from the body.
Eat more citrus fruits. Oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes are citrus fruits that have been known to help with weight loss and cutting fat. Adding lemon or lime to water without sugar is a great way to start the day. Oranges make great snacks as do half of grapefruits.
If you play video games, play those that make you move. The Nintendo Wii, Xbox Kinect and now Playstation have dancing and athletic games.
When assigning children chores, add 15 jumping jacks to the list. It might be hard to start, but it will get easier as long as it’s implemented.
Add vegetables to every meal. Whether they are frozen or fresh vegetables, make sure that children are eating at least one type of vegetable at every meal. Do not add salt.
Fruits make great desserts. A quick fruit salad that’s kept in the refrigerator is great for after dinner or as a snack during the day.

Small changes and alterations to your daily life can make all the difference for you, your child and your child’s future.