The prevalence of obesity in children and adolescents is higher than 20 years ago in all racial-ethnic,
age, and gender groups. The related disease risks include diabetes mellitus, hypertension, heart
disease, stroke, gout, arthritis, and cancer. The primary causes, experts agree, are poor nutrition in
the early years and low activity levels, especially in individuals with a family history of obesity. Many
overweight kids end up becoming overweight adults.
Prevention Strategies for Parents
• Be good role models. Show your children how important it is for all family members to make healthy
• Provide your children with healthy food choices. Provide snacks that are low in fat, sodium, and
refined sugar and are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
• Encourage young children to develop good eating habits and preferences for healthful foods because
eating behaviors that develop during childhood tend to track into adulthood.
• Do not prohibit your children from eating unhealthy foods. The key is moderation. Limit fast food.
• Watch your children's portion sizes and make sure the diet is consistent with the recommendations of
the food guide pyramid.
• Consult a dietitian to find out how much food your child should be eating if you are not sure what
portion sizes are appropriate for your child
• Limit television viewing. Research suggests that increased television viewing is related to the
development and maintenance of obesity. This is not surprising given the number of advertisements
for unhealthy foods targeted at child consumers, the sedentary nature of watching TV, and the fact that
most people eat while viewing TV.
• Encourage your children to be active,
• Involve your children in food purchasing by taking your children food shopping and allowing them
to help select healthy foods. Also, involve your in the food preparation process such as washing
vegetables and pouring and stirring ingredients.
• Give your children specific praise for making healthy food choices. For example, "I like how you ate
all of your broccoli! It will make you very healthy and strong."
• Remember that food preferences develop over repeated exposure and time. Try to present new
foods in small quantities and encourage your children to just take a bite at first. Over time, you can
increase the portion size of the new food.
• Make sure your children try to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, such
as 100% fruit and vegetable juices and raw, cooked, canned, or dried fruits and vegetables. Easy
accessibility to fruits and vegetables is important. Have fresh fruits and vegetables such as grapes
and baby carrots washed and placed in a prominent location in the refrigerator.
• Encourage healthier snacks (such as granola bars, boxes of raisins, graham crackers, and pretzels).
This alternative enables the school to earn money, but not at the expense of its students’ health.
Center for Disease Control. (2003). National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Available: www.
Dietz, W. H., & Stern, L. (1999). The official complete home reference guide to your child’s nutrition.
Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics. Available: 888-227-1770.
Shield, J., & Mullen, M. C. (2002). The American Dietetic Association guide to healthy eating for kids:
How your children can eat smart from five to twelve. New York: Wiley. ISBN: 0471441449.