Parents should set the example and be persistent
WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Childhood obesity is one of the biggest health problems facing our nation, especially when it comes to Hispanics.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20 percent of Hispanic children between the ages of 12 and 19 years old are obese. By contrast, 18 percent of all American children between 12 and 19 years old are obese.
"You can say it's the main problem facing our community," said Dr. Felipe Lobelo, who specializes in nutrition, physical activity, and obesity at the CDC.
"Unfortunately, we (Hispanics) are among the groups with the highest rates of obesity in both adults and children, and we have to do something about it," he said.
Dr. Lobelo says there are many things that parents and guardians can do, and offers the following tips to help them get started:
1) Eat more fruits and vegetables
Eating fruits and vegetables is essential to fighting childhood obesity. Parents and guardians can add fruits to their kids' diet by chopping them up and serving them as a snack instead of candy or chips. While some kids don't like vegetables, Dr. Lobelo says that there are ways to get them to eat their greens. Parents should serve vegetables their kids will most likely enjoy, and add condiments if necessary. The whole family should also limit high-calorie or greasy foods. "The most important thing is getting kids to eat more fruits and vegetables and other healthy snacks because we know they don't have many opportunities to do so during the day," he said.
2) Spend less time in front of a screen
These days, it's easy to sit down and stay that way. Children often spend many hours watching television, playing video games, or sitting in front of a computer. "Sedentary activities are a big contributor to obesity," said Dr. Lobelo. Parents and guardians should place limits on the amount of time kids spend in front of a television or computer--ideally, no more than two hours a day. That way kids will have more time to follow the next piece of advice: get up and move!
3) Exercise more
Dr. Lobelo says that exercise would be a miracle drug if it could be compressed into a pill and swallowed. It would reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and several types of cancer. He recommends kids exercise for at least an hour a day. "I'm not talking about training for a specific sport or exercising rigorously every day. I'm talking about kids getting out of the house and playing outside, in open spaces. They should go out and walk and have a lifestyle that is not sedentary."
4) Eliminate sugary drinks
In the last few years there has been a tremendous growth in the consumption of sugary drinks such as sodas, juices, and energy drinks. People are often unaware of how much sugar these drinks actually contain. "They have a lot of calories that offer no nutritional value and contribute to an unhealthy diet," said Dr. Lobelo. "That's why it's recommended that people avoid them as much as they can." Ideally, parents and guardians should encourage children to drink water.
5) Set the example
Good eating habits at home are possible if parents give them the importance they deserve, said Dr. Lobelo. "A parent or guardian shouldn't be telling his son to have good eating habits if he himself doesn't have good eating habits," he said. "The whole family should have good eating habits. They should go out for walks together and try to minimize the amount of time spent watching television and consuming sugary drinks."
USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov are the U.S. Government's official web portals in English and Spanish, and part of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). This article was made in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.