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Prevent Childhood Obesity in the Toddler Years

Alison Wood |21, April 2013


Childhood obesity is a growing problem in the U.S. Statistically, one in three kids is overweight or obese. This is three times as much as the average in 1963. How can you as a parent prevent this from happening to your toddler? Start your plan early and know the risk factors, complications and solutions of childhood obesity.

Your toddler or child is more likely to be overweight or obese if the following is true:

He regularly eats high calorie foods
Foods such as potato chips, cakes, muffins, brownies, fast food and fried foods. If your child drinks lots of sugary drinks and consumes loads of candy, these can really put on the weight as well.

He spends most of his day watching television or playing video games.
Staying inside and sitting for long periods of time does not burn up the calories that he has eaten throughout the day.

Your family is typically overweight or obese.
Families that have numerous family members that weigh a good bit above their recommended BMI tend to pass on their unhealthy choices to their kids. If mom is eating a high-calorie and nutritionless dinner, the kids will follow suit in their eating habits.

Your family experiences ongoing stress.
Many people mindlessly eat when they become stressed and overwhelmed. Kids may do this as well and even eat just when they are bored.

Your family's kitchen pantry looks like a vending machine.
It is hard for a young child to make healthy eating choices when the only food available are cookies, crackers, frozen packaged meals, ice cream and other convenience foods.

If the above scenarios fit your family's lifestyle, your toddler may be at risk for childhood obesity. There are major setbacks if a child is overweight. Physical, emotional and mental setbacks can occur. If a child is overweight he is more likely to:

Be depressed.
Overweight kids tend to be bullied. They are the last ones to be picked at a neighborhood ball game, they are the last ones to have a boyfriend or girlfriend and they are often left out from being invited to fun gatherings. Kids can be very cruel and say such crushing comments that your child can begin to feel worthless, unwanted and depressed.

Develop Type II Diabetes.
Diabetes is when the body is unable to process glucose effectively. Type II Diabetes is, in part, caused by a poor diet and can be a detrimental result to a child who is overweight. This type of diabetes sometimes can be reversed through healthy eating and plenty of regular exercise.

Develop High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol.
These dangerous health issues are normally the result of a poor diet. High blood pressure and cholesterol can cause buildup of plaque in the arteries and cause them to narrow and harden. These dangerous effects can cause a heart attack or stroke in later years.

Develop Breathing Problems.
The extra weight on your child's body can cause problems with the development and health of your child's lungs. If the lungs are damaged and unhealthy, asthma and other breathing problems can arise.

Develop Sleep Disorders.
Your child could develop sleep apnea if he is overweight or obese. This is a condition in which your child may snore or have abnormal breathing when he sleeps,

Enter into Puberty at an Early Age.
Obesity can create hormone imbalances and thus can cause puberty or menstruation to take place at an earlier age.

Pretty scary stuff, isn't it? So, how can a parent prevent this from happening to their child? Here are some healthy steps you can take to prevent childhood obesity from happening to one of your kids.

1. Start Eating Healthy.

Not your toddler or child, but you! It is well-known that toddlers and young kids mimic their parents, but they also mimic their parents' lifestyles. Make sure your lifestyle is a healthy one.

2. Cook healthy foods at home.

Prepare lower fat and highly nutritious meals. Try different recipes to find ones that your family enjoys. Skip the fast food restaurants and enjoy a meal at home together.

3. Get your child moving!

Buy your toddler a new ball to kick and throw. Take him to a park to swing and run around with other kids. Hand him some new wheels to try out in the driveway. Don't go inside. Stay with him and let him know that running, cycling and playing ball are loads of fun!

4. Replace the convenience foods.

Moms, dads and kids get hungry throughout the day. Prepare nibble-ready snacks that are healthy. Fruit salads, chopped veggies, and hummus and wheat crackers are great choices for snacks that are ready-to-eat.

Give your toddler lots of water. Break the habit now of drinking soda at every meal. Try fruit-flavored waters, ice water with squeezes of lime or some refreshing green tea. Many adults report that when they leave the sugary drinks out of their diet, the weight starts to come off. Same is true for little ones. Change your diet and lifestyle today and prepare your little one for a healthier and happier future.

Alison Wood is a stay-at-home mom of six and freelance writer and blogger. She enjoys raising her six children and desires to share her experiences to help other mothers.

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littlekingdom Aug 19, 2013 10:24:39 AM ET

Good post Alison. In this technologically advanced age today, outdoor activity for kids is being replaced by tabs and smart phones and computers. The overall lifestyle is responsible for obesity in kids as well as adults. It is only wise to control it before things get out of hand. As a parent I know I can only lead through example and it is only right that we as parents need to set these healthy examples for our kids.

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