Weight Concerns and your Toddler

A study published in the September 2006 issue of Pediatrics found that 60% of children who were overweight during their preschool years were still overweight by age 12. Numerous studies have shown that children and teenagers who are overweight are more likely to be overweight as adults. What was once thought of as cute baby fat may actually be a matter of serious concern.

According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 10% of infants and toddlers less than two years of age were overweight. For older children, the number jumps to 17%. The extra weight that children are carrying around has led to increased rates of high blood pressure and diabetes in children.

The fact that toddlers are weighing more than in years past should not be surprising considering that the number one “vegetable” being consumed by young children is French fries. Children are undoubtedly influenced by the dietary and exercise habits of their parents and caregivers. According to the CDC, nearly 65% of adults are overweight, with over 30% considered obese. Americans are eating out more than ever, and when they do eat at home, their meals and snacks usually consist of high calorie, low nutrition processed foods. As we have moved into being a service economy, most people have jobs that involve very little physical activity. Our leisure time usually consists of watching our big screen TV sets or surfing the Internet.

With obesity being a contributing factor for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and even back pain, we are all paying, literally and figuratively, for our weight gain. These diseases cost the U.S. many millions if not billions of dollars each year in increased health care costs and lost productivity, and rob us of years of enjoyment. It is important that we reverse this trend by teaching young children healthier eating and exercise habits.

If children are offered healthy snacks, such as vegetables and fruit, they will be more likely to choose healthy snacks when they get older. Many fast food restaurants are now offering healthier side dishes and beverages in their children’s meals. It would be helpful if they also saw their parents choosing a salad instead of a cheeseburger and fries. Parents need to revive the lost art of outdoor activity, by taking their children to the park or even out in their back yard to toss a ball around or play hide and seek. These activities will bring parents and children closer together and help them lead healthier, happier and longer lives.