The number of overweight children has increased dramatically in recent years.
For most children, overweight is the result of unhealthy eating patterns and too little physical activity. Since these habits are established in early childhood, efforts to prevent obesity should begin early.
Helping overweight children
Weight loss is not a good approach for most young children, since their bodies are growing and developing. Overweight children should not be put on a diet unless a physician supervises one for medical reasons. A restrictive diet may not supply the energy and nutrients needed for normal growth and development.
For most very young children, the focus should be to maintain current weight, while the child grows normally in height.
The most important strategies for preventing obesity are healthy eating behaviours, regular physical activity, and reduced sedentary activity (such as watching television and videotapes, and playing computer games). These preventative strategies are part of a healthy lifestyle that should be developed during early childhood.
Parents and caregivers can help prevent childhood obesity by providing healthy meals and snacks, daily physical activity, and nutrition education. Healthy meals and snacks provide nutrition for growing bodies while modeling healthy eating behavior and attitudes. Increased physical activity reduces health risks and helps weight management. Nutrition education helps young children develop an awareness of good nutrition and healthy eating habits for a lifetime.