In the last 30 years, the number of overweight children has tripled. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now estimates that one in five children in the U.S. is overweight.
That number is hardly surprising, given that adolescents spend more time in front of computer monitors, television and video screens than ever before.
While overweight children often face negative psychological outcomes, there are physical consequences as well, such as sleep apnea, asthma, liver disease and orthopaedic problems.
“Childhood obesity is particularly troubling because the extra pounds often start children on the path to health problems the emotional toll can be accompanied by negative health consequences such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” said Kim Lyons, Rapides Wound Healing Center program director.
A report from the Office of the Surgeon General noted that overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. The report suggested parents concerned with their children’s weight should consult their doctors and other healthcare professionals who can help rule out rare medical problems which might cause unhealthy weight and assess if a child’s weight is unhealthy.
“One of the best ways to prevent or reduce childhood obesity is to develop a well rounded diet and incorporate exercise habits for the entire family,” Lyons said. “When helping children lose pounds, most experts agree that parents should concentrate on small changes that can gradually become lifetime habits.”
Since Halloween can be a particularly scary time for parents who want to help children lose weight, Rapides Wound Healing Center offers these tips:
- Be sure children eat dinner before trick or treating to minimize late night snacking.
- Break up the candy they receive into smaller amounts to be enjoyed over a period of time.
- Mix candy corn and M&M's into a healthy trail mix that offers more nutrition and less candy per serving.
- Search the internet and family magazines for healthy treats. Deviled eggs can easily become monster eyes and Halloween cookie cutters turn sandwiches and cheese slices into frighteningly fun food.
- Give out stickers, sugar free gum, pretzels or low calorie snack packs, party favors or other treats so you don't risk having left over candy in the house.
- Shift the focus away from food by carving a pumpkin, making costumes or taking in a local autumn fair.
- Physical activity is an important part of weight loss. Take a walk with your children to find fall leaves, go horseback riding like the Headless Horseman or take a bike ride through the neighborhood to choose the house you would want to haunt if you were a ghost.
- It is important not to use food as a reward or punishment so let children enjoy Halloween but help them make healthy choices that won't haunt them for years to come.