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Overweight and obesity
Being overweight can have a profound, negative effect on self-esteem.
Overweight and obesity that begins in childhood often continues into adulthood, leading to increased risks for heart disease, high blood pressure, and other serious medical conditions.
Type 2 diabetes was once considered a disease of adults only.
Now, as a result of the epidemic of overweight and obesity, an increasing number of adolescents are developing this disease.
Parents pass on much more than their genetic traits to their children; the way they act and the food choices they make can also have a profound effect on their children’s food choices as well on as their interest in physical activity. If you or your spouse is overweight or obese, you can help yourself as well as your children by making healthier eating habits into a family affair.
You don't have to empty your refrigerator and start from scratch. Even small, positive changes in what you eat and how you eat can potentially make a difference in overweight and obesity issues in children over time.
The consumption of sugar is a good example. Families
can make a point of learning what foods are rich in sugar content,
and can begin to choose alternatives based on that knowledge.
Many prepared foods marketed to children and teenagers, such as
soft drinks, sugar-sweetened beverages, cakes, cookies, and candy,
contain corn-based sweeteners, refined cane and beet sugars, and
other syrups. Among young people, soft drinks are the major source
of added sugars. Choosing water, or a beverage sweetened with
a non-nutritive, or non-caloric sweetener such as a sugar-blended
beverage (made with lower amounts of sugar products combined with
a non-nutritive sweetener) can decrease the total amount of calories
children take in.
Take active vacations—go hiking or ride bicycles.
Whenever possible, walk instead of drive, for errands such as
going to the grocery store or post office. Eat together as a family
more, and try to eat out less. When families do not eat meals
together, they tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables and more
fried food and soft drinks. Eating better as a family
Drink more water. Limit soft drinks and fruit
juice to 4 oz. per day for children under 2 and less than 6 oz.
for children over 2. Put a clear limit on high calorie snacks
such as potato chips, and cookies. Eat more vegetables and fresh
Keep healthy snacks, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole
grain crackers, in the house. Making the best of fast food Sometimes
you just don't have any other option but fast food. In these situations,
follow these suggestions to keep the total calorie count from
getting out of hand:
Breaking old habits: Many of our choices with
respect to the foods we eat, how we eat, and how we exercise (or
don't exercise) are unconscious. In other words, we often develop
habits as children, or as young adults, and we stick with those
habits as we age without giving much thought to how our choices
may affect our health. The goal of this section on aafp.org, is
to bring those unconscious choices to light, and to offer reasonable
suggestions for new choices and new behaviors that will contribute
to better health.