Childhood obesity is a problem in many parts of the world, including the United States and Canada. The 2015-2016 National Health and Nutritional Evaluation Survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the national childhood obesity rate among 2- to 19-year-olds was 18.5 percent.
Healthy lifestyles can help children achieve and maintain healthy weights into adulthood. Nutritious diets are an essential component of healthy lifestyles, and the American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips to parents who want to help their kids eat healthier.
• Serve low-fat or no-fat milk, yogurt and cheese. Low-fat dairy products are low in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol but still provide high amounts of protein, calcium and various vitamins and minerals.
• Serve starches in small batches. The AAP notes that starchy foods, such as potatoes, pasta and rice, help the body use fat and cholesterol. Small amounts of such foods can be beneficial additions to kidsÕ diets. When serving such foods, avoid toppings such as butter, sour cream and gravy, which tend to be high in calories. Foods like cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt and parmesan cheese are low-calorie alternatives to more traditional toppings.
• Choose lean meats as entrees. When choosing entrees, parents should opt for lean meats, such as white meat chicken or turkey. Lean cuts of beef, pork or fish also can be included in healthy diets. When preparing chicken, remove the skin and cut away fat, which also can be removed from pork.
• Serve vegetable — or broth-based soups. Vegetable— or broth-based soups tend to be lower in calories and saturated fat than cream-based alternatives. When serving soups, particularly store-bought canned soups, parents should read labels and be mindful of the sodium content. Some canned soups include as much as two-thirds the daily recommended sodium intake in a single can. Large amounts of sodium can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease, and the CDC notes that roughly 90 percent of children in the United States eat too much sodium each day.
• Bake, broil or grill foods. When preparing meals, parents can bake, broil or grill foods instead of frying them. Fried foods have been linked to a host of ailments, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In addition, when foods are fried in oil, they lose water and absorb fat, increasing their overall calorie count.