Parents’ Role in Preventing Childhood Obesity

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Preventing Childhood Obesity Starts With the Parents

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Written By Peg Doyle

SUNDAY, Oct 4 2009 (Wicked Local) – Fortunately, parents of young children have an opportunity early in their children’s lives to establish healthy eating habits. The task may seem daunting when a parent sees the barrage of advertisements for fast-food restaurants and junk food that is directed toward children. However, in the early years, parents are doing the shopping and cooking, so this is the time to bring good-quality food into your homes.

Here are some sobering statistics on childhood obesity:

One-third of American children and adolescents are either obese or at risk for becoming obese.

Between 1963 and 2004, obesity rates have quadrupled for children age 6 to 11, and tripled for children age 12 to 19, and continue to grow.

Overweight and obese children and teens are much more likely to become overweight or obese adults.

Overweight kids have greater risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, bone and joint problems, type II diabetes, poor self-esteem and other health, social and psychological problems.

Obesity does not occur because of an occasional treat. It occurs when children are consistently eating the sugar, salt and fat that is a part of most packaged foods, including salad dressings, soups, pizza, bagels and juice drinks. It occurs when many of their meals are purchased at take-out restaurants. If you are concerned that your child is at risk for obesity, take steps now to avoid the physical and social difficulties we know are associated with childhood obesity. 


Psychologist Leonard Epstein states, “Kids model their parents — they learn healthy, as well as unhealthy, behaviors from them.”

When you eat wisely, and focus on healthy eating rather than dieting, your kids will follow your lead. Remember, when your kids are little, you are the one who purchases the food that comes into your home.


A University of Alabama study found a link between lower incidences of obesity in children who eat with their families on a regular basis.


Food should be left for what it is — a means of satisfying physical hunger and coming together as a family. Use other techniques to reward children for good behavior or an accomplishment — such as a hug or a special time with Mom or Dad. Punishment should not be associated with giving or withholding food.


If only one of your children is struggling with obesity, do not single that child out as the one who has to eat healthy. ALL children and parents need to eat healthy. Not everyone becomes obese from eating an unhealthy diet, but the health of everyone can be affected by a poor diet in many ways — tooth decay, eczema, stomach upset, headache, elevated cholesterol, low energy, more illness, etc.

Parents play a vital role in guiding children to a healthy lifestyle. If you are concerned about the nutritional health of your children, set specific goals with regard to how you plan to improve the quality of what your family eats. If you need help, seek out a qualified specialist who will provide information beyond the number of calories your children should consume. Nutritional quality, including freshness and variety, are most important when planning meals. Establishing good habits in the early years has a strong correlation with continuing on that path in later years when children become more independent.