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Preventing Obesity

Dear Debi,
My 4-year-old granddaughter is a little overweight for her age. My friends tell me it’s “baby fat,” but I’m not sure. Is there something I should start doing right now to prevent her from becoming obese?
Sandra Joiner
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Develop healthy eating habits early
  • Eat smaller portions throughout the day
  • Kids need to be active at least one hour a day
  • Be supportive
Expert Advice
Dr. Veena Damle
Dr. Veena Damle
I would recommend that Sandra check to see if her granddaughter is overweight. In order to do this, Sandra should get the height and weight of her child and calculate her Body Mass Index (BMI) – which is a proportion of weight to height. If it falls in the 85th -94th percentile, then her granddaughter could be at risk for becoming obese. If she’s already in the 95th percentile or above, then she’s overweight. When calculating the BMI, remember that some kids are just built differently. By the time a child is four, however, they shouldn’t look plump anymore because they’ve gained quite a bit of height.

Prevention and treatment for obesity are the same. They include healthy nutrition, like eating less junk food, less fast food, less juice, less whole milk, less red meat, more fruits and vegetables. It’s important to limit TV viewing and make sure that the child is playing outside. When children are preschoolers, they don’t really do organized sports but it is important that they get active. We also encourage the whole family to get active and for the whole family to be making this lifestyle change.

Childhood obesity is on the rise because of a number of reasons. Parents are eating out more often because of the fact that both parents in a household tend to work. There’s also a lot of eating out just out of convenience – fast food places are placed very conveniently and are very inexpensive. The prevalence of food everywhere has also contributed. Food is everywhere – we can’t get away from it. Also, kids aren’t playing outside for various reasons, whether their neighborhood isn’t safe or because TV is used as a babysitter.

Preventing obesity starts from before birth. Proper and healthy pre-natal care plays a big part in preventing obesity. Breastfeeding also plays a significant role. Healthy habits should really start from the beginning and as a lifestyle change.
Child Care provider Comments
Ronni Rice
Ronni Rice
Mother of Two
There are a few things that parents can do. One is role modeling. I think when kids see their parents eating good, healthy foods and making healthy choices, they naturally follow along. The other thing is to have healthy snacks and foods readily available. I think too often we go to the easy, fast sugars and those types of foods. I know my four-year-old can open the cupboard herself and so at her level, I have healthier choices so that what she can reach for are the healthier foods.
Sandra Dennis
Sandra Dennis
Grandmother of one
My granddaughter is on the heavy side. One day, when she asked for more food I knew she had eaten enough -she had had seconds. I told her to drink her milk instead. She then began to complain that her tummy hurts. I’ve told her not to eat until her tummy hurts. I tell my granddaughter that she doesn’t have to eat everything on her plate. Just eat until she is satisfied.
Sonnia Corzo
Sonnia Corzo
Child care provider for 6 years, mother of four
One of the things we try and incorporate into our program is outdoor activity. We’ll do about half an hour to 45 minutes in the morning and half an hour to 45 minutes in the afternoon. The kids will jump and they’ll run, they’ll climb, they’ll do several things. We always make sure that’s part of our daily activities. We also give parents pamphlets through our nutrition program to make sure that they’re aware, too, of the healthy foods.

Healthy Meals Featured Activity:
Healthy Meals
Preventing Obesity Featured Video:
Preventing Obesity
Topic: Health & Safety
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