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It’s Time to Face Facts: Childhood Obesity Is Getting Worse, Not Better

Written by Kelly Coleman, M.D. on May 16, 2018 7:56:00 AM

While there was some thought that childhood obesity was on the decline in America, a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that more children than ever are at risk for obesity and the other conditions that come with it. 

Contributing Factors and Risks

Similar to obesity in adults, there isn’t one single contributing factor that leads to childhood obesity. Oftentimes, doctors find that it’s a combination of characteristics that lead to the problem.

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  • Genetics – The study found that children of white and Asian descent had the lowest rates of childhood obesity, while children of African-American, Hispanic, or other ethnicities were at a significantly increased risk of obesity. And while all parents need to keep an eye out for obesity in their children, parents with kids in these groups, who are already at a higher risk, need to pay special attention to their children’s diet and exercise habits. 
  • Poor diet – Schedules are packed so tightly these days that oftentimes a burger from a fast-food restaurant is much easier and sometimes the only way families can fit dinner into their calendar. When meals like this happen enough during the week, it could spell disaster for your kids’ health (and yours). Foods laden with fat, sugar, and calories have slowly crept into our diets and become the norm, so a conscious effort often has to be made be mindful of portion size and food selection. Add the abundance of available junk food and it’s no wonder there’s an obesity epidemic in America. 
  • Sedentary lifestyle – As the world becomes increasingly digital, a higher number of kids are finding activities to do indoors – and playing outdoors is good for kids! It gets them moving, which will help them burn calories and keep their weight down. 

Make Time for Healthy Meals

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This seems easy enough, but you know what? Making a switch to healthy eating can be very difficult at first, and it’s important to acknowledge that. If you have a busy family schedule, some time and effort might have to be made at the front end with meal prepping and planning out healthy dinners and lunches ahead of time – especially if it’s something you’re not used to. But after a few weeks, it will become part of your routine and won’t seem as difficult. Kids need the same foods you do to be healthy – lean meats, lots of fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats, like those found in avocados, nuts, and eggs. Talk to your doctor about what your child needs specifically as far as calories and portion sizes, and then adjust your weekly meals accordingly. It will be worth it in the long run! Kelsey-Seybold dietitians are another great resource available to our patients for added guidance. 

Get Them Moving

I can’t impress upon you enough how important it is for your child – and you – to be active. Get him or her involved in organized sports. Soccer, softball, baseball, tennis, swimming or track are all excellent ways to get a child moving in a fun way and come with the added benefit of teaching teamwork and responsibility. Remember that your child will likely be more active if you’re active with them, so make it a point to play outside together. 

Coleman, Kelly


Dr. Kelly Coleman is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s The Vintage Clinic. Her clinical interest is childhood obesity.



Topics: childhood obesity, child obesity

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