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3 risk factors for childhood obesity

Posted on Jan 27, 2014 by Maggie LaBarbera

We hear so many reasons that we have a childhood obesity epidemic worldwide.  But what if you could just narrow it down to three areas to focus on to prevent your preschooler from becoming obese.

Well a new study* conducted by the University of Illinois has done just that.  We have identified the three most significant risks that could cause your child to become obese.  And it is all in your control to change.

1. Inadequate sleep

2. parent's weight status

3. parental restriction of food in order to control weight

A little more about the study:  the researchers looked at 22 variables that the that have already been identified as risk factors for childhood obesity in preschoolers.  The conclusions were based on the results of 329 extensive surveys given to 329 parent-child groups.  These parent-child dyads were participants in the child-care program "Uof I's STRONG (Synergistic Theory and Research on Obesity and Nutrition Group) Kids Program.  Researchers looked at demographics, health histories of both the child and parent and the family's feeding practices/patterns.  Home visits were also included to obtain more information. 

Key Advice based on the findings of the research:

1.  Parents, your food preferences are being passed on to kids. Preschoolers are forming their "tastes" and you are a key influencer:  
Role model for them by eating the foods you want them to eat.  
2.  If parents are sedentary then it is more likely that the children will also be sedentary.  Being active is part of a healthy lifestyle for everyone of all ages.  Make family events fun and active.  Find family time that is also active time.
3.  If parents are overweight it is likely that the foods they choose to buy and eat are high calorie foods or large portions or both.  Either way, overweight parents tend to have children that become overweight too.
Keep the pantry stocked with healthy snacks and build your meals around natural, unprocessed foods rich in fruits and vegetables.
4.  Parents who make foods reward or punishments tend to have overweight children.  In other words, certain foods are forbidden or used as rewards then children may want that food even more.  You won't be able to control them forever so it is best to teach moderation and portion control instead.
Teach children which foods are once in a while treats.  All foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle but some foods should not be eaten every day and portions are smaller.
5.  Lack of sleep and obesity are strongly correlated.  
Set reasonable bed time so children can get plenty of sleep.
Ultimately, be patient and consistent.  If you look at this list and feel slightly overwhelmed.  Have a family meeting and set one goal at a time.
Remember, each small change is a step towards a healthier child!




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