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Fight Childhood Obesity: Make Changes, Improve Lives
By Jacqueline Ely, RD, LDN

The obesity epidemic not only affects adults but is reaching more and more children. Research and education is ongoing to try and combat this problem. Very minimal changes have occurred over the past few years. There is an average of 17% of children and adolescents age 2-19 falling into the obese weight ranges. An article in the New York Times reported for the first time in two centuries the current generation of children in America may have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. This information came from a report published by the New England Journal of Medicine.  Obese children have an increased risk of developing high cholesterol and blood pressure, early heart disease, diabetes, bone problems and skin conditions.

It is never too late to make changes and improve the health and wellbeing of the entire family.

Make a pledge to become a healthier family overall. This needs to be a family effort and cannot single out any members of the group. Here are some easy tips for you and your family to try to create a healthier lifestyle.

  1. Cut back on meals away from the home. Research shows that approximately 32% of Americans caloric intake is consumed outside the home. This includes fast food, take out and sit down restaurants. Foods consume while dining out are often higher in sodium, fat, cholesterol and calories.
  2. Prepare more meals at home and dine together as a family. Silence the TV and enjoy conversation. This is a great time for interaction. 33% of Americans report the TV is always on during dinner and 43% of Americans report the TV is sometimes on during dinner. Turn off electronic devices and other distractions during your meals for better portion control.
  3. Allow your children to help during meal preparation or in choosing the foods for the week. Make a game out of it. For example: each family member can choose one new food a week to try and it is their responsibility to come up with a recipe or way the food can be incorporated so everyone tries it.
  4. Replace all sugary beverages with water and milk. Eliminate soda, juices and other sweetened beverages. These drinks are only "empty calories." One can of soda typically contain 10 teaspoons of sugar or more (40 grams). These products often contain little if any beneficial nutrients. Drinking high calorie beverages does not fulfill hunger pangs the same way whole foods do. Fill up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins not beverages. 

Get Moving!  Children need a minimum of 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity every day.  Take a walk as a family after dinner, give kids active toys such as bikes and kites, or encourage kids to join sports groups or try a new activity. 

For resources on how to help your family and children be healthy, check out wrcameronwellness.org Kids Programs. Washington Health System Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness center offers kids' activities such as Swimming Lessons, Nutritional Counseling, and KidZone Summer Camp where children spend their summer days learning how to treat their bodies well, make healthful choices, build self-confidence, and play as part of a team.

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