Adopting A Healthy Lifestyle As A Family To Help Prevent Obesity In Kids

The prevalence of kids who are overweight or obese is growing at an alarming rate. In fact, 39.6% of kids between the ages of 2-19 are overweight and 18.5% are obese.

What’s even more concerning is that these statistics seem to apply to the preschool-aged kids as well. According to Ohio’s Head Start Program, 35.7% of 3-5 year olds living in Ohio and participating in the Head Start program are overweight or obese. We know that kids who are overweight or obese are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and heart disease. Alarmingly, these diseases are no longer considered “adult diseases,” which means that we need to adopt healthier habits as early as possible to help prevent them from starting earlier in life. 

This is obviously easier said than done, as families are busier than ever, have more access to unhealthy foods and are less active than they once were. The families we see in our HealthWorks! clinic struggle with these same things: they want and need reliable information, but don’t always have enough time to seek it out and consume it.  

That’s why we created a series of short videos to help families learn what they need to know to be successful. There are 26 short clips offering tips on the topics of meal planning, eating out, portion control, strength training, and screen time, to name a few. Here are some bigger-picture take-aways to get families started:

Tips for Adopting A Healthy Lifestyle as a Family

1. Make Changes As A Family

The families who have been the most successful have made changes together as a unit. Collectively, they all focus on eating healthy, avoiding sugary drinks, exercising and sleeping well. That way, no one family member feels singled out and everyone reaps the benefits.

2. Keep It Positive

Embracing change is hard! Kids are more likely to respond if we can keep these adjustments positive. Celebrate the small wins. High five your kids when they make good choices at a special occasion, such as choosing fruit instead of cookies.  Offer an incentive, such as getting to choose which active game your family will play that evening, when they pick a healthy breakfast – such as one that includes protein and fiber – rather than skipping breakfast or eating one loaded with sugar.

3. Set Small Yet Challenging Goals

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can feel a little overwhelming. That’s why we recommend families start with setting small, achievable goals and building from there. I suggest making it a little challenging so that your family starts to see results and will be more likely to maintain motivation. An example could be setting a goal to cook a healthy family dinner at home 3-4 times a week.

4. Use Reliable Information

Families wanting to start and/or achieve a healthy lifestyle may turn to the internet or even popular trends for help. After first checking with your doctor, we recommend utilizing reliable sources of information. Good ones include Choose My Plate, Kids Eat Right, and, of course, our collection of healthy living videos from our HealthWorks! team.

The rise in obesity rates cannot be attributed to one singular thing. It’s a complicated picture with a lot of factors at play. Certainly, we are less physically active than we used to be. We’re playing more video games and playing less outside. Our food is more processed than it once was. Drinks contain more sugar. Most of us are consuming less fiber and eating fewer fruits and vegetables than we once did.

Adopting a healthier lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle, but I want you to know that there are people and resources that can help. If you are concerned about your kids’ health, speak with their main doctor about it. He or she may refer you to a family-based program for kids with overweight conditions, such as HealthWorks!.

To learn more about our HealthWorks! program, please call 513-636-4305 or email healthworks@cchmc.org.
Kristin Stackpole, MD

About the Author: Kristin Stackpole, MD

Kristin Stackpole, MD, is a pediatrician in the Center for Better Health and Nutrition at Cincinnati Children’s, and specializes in obesity medicine. She is an avid runner and a mother of two who understands the challenges parents face in balancing work, kids’ activities, getting chores done, and living a healthy lifestyle. It’s hard to choose taking time to exercise when the laundry is piling up! For her, being active together as a family by doing things like going on a walk in the park, cooking, and eating healthy meals together as a family creates the moments in life she loves best!

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