Most people can remember when they first tried losing weight. Maybe it was after they gained the “freshman 15” or gave birth to a child, but a glance in the mirror or the number on the scale said it was time to take it seriously. For many, however, the weight gain starts much earlier. In fact, doctors say parents should be looking out for their children’s weight as early as two years old.
A recent policy brief from the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut makes it clear that watching infant weight is the best way to curb childhood obesity.
The Institute recommends avoiding “screen time,” providing day care centers with nutritional guidelines and encouraging children to be active, something Dr. Dirk wholeheartedly agrees with. He recommends activities as simple as tag or hide and go seek to keep kids moving throughout the day.
“It is important for parents to be aware of their children’s food intake and physical activity,” Dr. Dirk says.
The hope is that helping children make healthy choices at a young age will keep them on the right track. The Institute says childhood obesity leads to teen obesity and so on, resulting in heart disease, diabetes and all the other negative effects that come with being overweight.
Dr. Dirk sees this play out every day.
“I perform obesity surgery on teenagers,” Dr. Dirk says. “I see the enormous negative impact obesity has on teenagers’ lives and health.”
His tips for keeping children at a healthy weight sound a lot like his recommendations for adults: eat freshly prepared foods, increase physical activity and avoid anything processed or sugary. For children, an easy culprit to eliminate is juice.
“Commercially prepared 100 percent fruit and vegetable juice is not healthy.” Dr. Dirk says. “It is concentrated sugar — that’s why it tastes so good.”
Teaching children about health and nutrition as early as possible is also a great way to prevent them from becoming picky eaters. So maybe when they see the cafeteria in their freshman dorm, they’ll head for the salad bar instead of the pizza station… at least once a week.
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