Five Simple Steps to Combat Childhood Obesity – By Hope Wills, Nutritionist

Pediatric obesity has been an issue for a while but now everyone is talking about it. The United States has seen a substantial rise in the number of overweight children over the past two decades. Current estimates report that one in five children in the U.S. is overweight.

The extra weight comes with a long list of health problems rarely seen before in young children. Health problems associated with obesity in children include: type 2 diabetes, joint pain/malformation, elevated blood lipids, high blood pressure, reactive airway disease, and low self-esteem.

There is no single cause of childhood obesity. Some experts condemn excessive consumption of sweetened beverages (like juice and soda) and high fat snacks with low nutritional value (like potato chips) while others lament a decrease in the level of physical activity in children of all ages. Most experts agree that it is a combination of both issues. The result is that children are gaining too much weight too fast. As with many health issues…prevention is the key.

Here are a few strategies that you can use with your family:

Create a healthy village: The saying is that it takes a village to raise a child. This village may include extended family members like grandparents, aunts, cousins, and even neighbors. Let them know that you are trying to create a healthy environment for your child and ask for their support.

Walk the walk and talk about it with your children: We make all kinds of tasty sounds and inviting faces trying to convince our children to eat foods that are “good” for them. We need to do the same thing when it comes to physical activity. Let your children see you sweat and then tell them how good it makes you feel.

Don’t confuse juicy hugs with candy kisses: Children crave our attention and approval more than any treat we can imagine. A juicy hug at the end of the day can be just as satisfying as a candy kiss. It is our job as parents to recognize hunger that comes from the heart versus hunger that comes from the tummy and to provide the proper nutrition for both.

Promote conscious eating: Turn off the television, radio, and computer games during meals and snacks. A recent study reported that children who snacked while watching TV ate more than children who ate their snack at the table.

Be a good (not perfect) example: Eat meals and snacks together as a family as much as possible. Children learn through observation and imitation. They can learn to make good food choices by watching you.


Hope Wills, MA, RD, CSP, is Staff Nutritionist at the University of Southern California University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She directs the CADE (Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education) approved Dietetic Internship, and serves as nutrition faculty in the LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities), Feeding Development Clinic and the High Risk Infant Clinic. In addition to teaching at USC and CSU Long Beach, she has presented at local, state, and national meetings on the topic of nutritional needs for children with special health care needs (CSHCN). Hope is passionate about the role of good nutrition in health.

This originally appeared on the Super Kids Nutrition site and was reprinted with permission and with limited editing.