Prevention of childhood obesity

We’ve all heard of it – the number of children in the US diagnosed as obese has skyrocketed over the past thirty years. In the 1970s, only one child in twenty was obese, while modern research shows that today the number of children with this problem has tripled as a percentage. Obese children are at higher risk of developing a range of diseases that were previously thought to occur only in adults. These are diseases such as type XNUMX diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease. These frightening statistics should encourage parents to take their children’s diet and lifestyle seriously. Families should be aware of the factors that contribute to a child’s obesity so that they can develop healthy habits from early childhood.

Vegetarian families are very successful in preventing childhood obesity. Studies show that vegetarians, both children and adults, tend to be leaner than their non-vegetarian peers. This is stated in the statement of the American Dietetic Association (ADA), published in July 2009. The bottom line of the conclusion is that a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered to be quite healthy, containing all the necessary nutrients and contributing to the prevention and treatment of certain diseases, such as heart disease, obesity, hypertension, type XNUMX diabetes, malignant neoplasms.

However, the development of childhood obesity is complex and is not the direct result of one or two habits, such as drinking sugary drinks or watching TV. Weight depends on so many factors that take place throughout the development of the child. So while the ADA statement says that a vegetarian diet is a big first step in preventing childhood obesity, there are a number of further steps that can be taken to further reduce the risk of childhood obesity.

Obesity develops when too many calories are consumed and little is expended. And this can happen whether children are vegetarians or non-vegetarians. Prerequisites for the development of obesity can occur at any stage of a child’s development. By being aware of the factors that can contribute to childhood obesity, families will be prepared to make the best choice possible.


An incredibly intensive process of growth and development takes place in the womb, this is the most important period that lays the foundation for the health of the child. There are several steps that pregnant women can take to reduce their children’s risk of developing obesity later in life. The main focus of scientific research in this area has been on the factors that affect the weight of newborns, since children who are born too small or too large have an increased risk of becoming obese later on. If the mother’s diet during pregnancy was poor in proteins, this increases the risk of having a low birth weight baby.

And if the mother’s diet was dominated by carbohydrates or fats, this can lead to a very large baby weight. In addition, children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy or were overweight before or during pregnancy are also at an increased risk of developing obesity. Pregnant women and those who are just planning a pregnancy can consult with professional dietitians to create a vegetarian diet that provides enough calories, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals.


Many studies have shown that children who were breastfed in early childhood are less likely to be overweight. Scientists are still trying to figure out why this is happening. It is likely that the unique nutrient ratio of breast milk plays a major role in helping infants achieve optimal weight in infancy and maintain it thereafter.

When breastfeeding, the baby eats as much as he wants, as much as he needs to satisfy his hunger. When formula-feeding, parents often rely on visual cues (such as a graduated bottle) and, in good faith, encourage the baby to drink the entire contents of the bottle, no matter how hungry the baby is. Since parents do not have the same visual cues when breastfeeding, they pay more attention to the wishes of the infant and are able to trust their infant’s ability to self-regulate the process of satisfying hunger.

Another benefit of breastfeeding is that the flavors from what the mother eats are transferred to the infant through breast milk (for example, if a breastfeeding mother eats garlic, her baby will receive garlic milk). It may seem strange, but this experience is actually very important for children, as it learns about the taste preferences of their family, and this helps babies to be more open and receptive when it comes to feeding vegetables and cereals. By teaching young children to eat healthy foods, parents and caregivers help them avoid big problems during infancy and early childhood. Breastfeeding with a wide range of foods in the mother’s diet during lactation will help the baby develop a taste for healthy foods and maintain normal weight gain in infancy and beyond.

Children and adolescents

Serving Sizes

The average size of many prepared foods offered in most stores and restaurants has increased over the past few decades. For example, twenty years ago the average bagel was 3 inches in diameter and contained 140 calories, while today’s average bagel is 6 inches in diameter and contains 350 calories. Both children and adults tend to eat more than they need, regardless of whether they are hungry or how many calories they burn. Teaching yourself and your kids that portion sizes matter is a must.

You and your kids can turn this process into a game by coming up with visual cues for portion sizes of your family’s favorite meals.

Eating Out

In addition to oversized portions, fast food restaurants in particular also tend to offer meals that are higher in calories, fat, salt, sugar, and lower in fiber than home-prepared meals. This means that even if your kids eat some of these foods, they still run the risk of getting more calories than they need.

If your family’s schedule is having a hard time making home-cooked meals, you can use ready-made and semi-prepared foods from the grocery store. You can save time, not health, by buying pre-washed greens, chopped vegetables, pickled tofu, and instant cereals. Also, as your kids get older, you can help them learn how to make healthy food choices at their favorite eateries.

Sweetened drinks

The term “sweetened drinks” is used to refer not only to a variety of soft drinks, it also includes any fruit juice that is not 100% natural. An increase in consumption of sweetened beverages is directly related to an increase in obesity rates. The syrup used to sweeten most of these drinks can contribute to weight gain. In addition, children who drink a lot of sweetened drinks tend to drink few healthy drinks. Encourage children to drink water, soy milk, low fat or skim milk, 100% fruit juice (in moderation) instead of a sweetened drink.  

Physical activity

Regular physical activity is essential for children to help them stay fit and maintain healthy growth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Unfortunately, many schools do not provide in-depth physical education, and only a few hours a week are allocated for physical education lessons. Thus, the responsibility falls on parents to encourage their children to engage in some kind of physical activity after school and on weekends.

Visiting sports sections is a great way to keep fit, but ordinary walks, active outdoor games, jump rope, hopscotch, cycling, ice skating, dog walking, dancing, rock climbing are just as good. Even better, if you manage to involve the whole family in regular physical activity, planning an active joint pastime. Create a tradition of walking together after dinner or going for walks in local parks on weekends. It is important to play outdoor games with children and be a good role model while enjoying exercise. Joint outdoor games will unite you and help improve the health of your family.

Screen time and sedentary lifestyle

Due to the advent of new affordable technologies, children spend more and more time in front of TVs and computers and less time for physical activity. Time spent in front of a television or computer screen is associated with childhood obesity in several different ways:

1) children are less active (one study found that children actually have a lower metabolism while watching TV than when they rest!),

2) children are under the influence of food advertising, primarily foods high in fat, salt and sugar,

3) Children who eat in front of the TV tend to prefer high-calorie snacks, which leads to calorie overload during the day. In addition, it is very important to separate eating and being in front of the screen. Studies have shown that sitting in front of a TV or computer and eating at the same time can push children and adults to mindlessly consume food and overeat, as they are distracted from feeling hungry and satisfying it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting children’s time in front of TV and computer screens to two hours a day. Also, encourage your kids to separate meal times and screen time to help them avoid mindless eating.


Children who sleep less than what is required for their age group are more likely to be overweight. Sleep deprivation can lead to increased hunger, as well as cravings for foods high in fat and sugar, which can lead to overeating and obesity. You need to know how many hours your child needs for good sleep and encourage him to go to bed on time.

Nutrition is the responsibility of parents

How your child will eat depends largely on you: what choice you give him, when, how often and how much food you offer, how you interact with the child during meals. You can help your children develop healthy eating habits and behaviors by lovingly and attentively learning about each child’s needs and inclinations.

In terms of the foods you offer, stock up on a wide range of healthy foods and make these foods easily available to the kids in your home. Keep chopped and washed fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator or on the table and invite your children to choose what they like when they are hungry for a snack. Plan ahead for meals that include a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and plant-based protein sources.

As for when, how often, and how much food you offer: try to make a rough meal schedule and try to get together at the table as often as possible. A family meal is a great opportunity to communicate with children, tell them about the benefits of certain foods, the principles of a healthy lifestyle and nutrition. Also, this way you can be aware of their portion sizes.

Try not to limit or pressure your children to eat, as this approach to feeding can teach children to eat when they are not hungry, leading to a habit of overconsumption with the accompanying problem of being overweight. Talking to children about whether they are hungry or full will help them learn to pay attention to the need to eat or refuse to eat in response to these sensations.

When it comes to interacting with your children during meals, the most important thing is to maintain a positive and fun atmosphere during meals. Responsibilities should be distributed between parents and children: parents decide when, where, and what to eat, providing some choice, and children themselves decide how much to eat.

Parents as role models

Parents pass on a set of genes and behavioral habits to their children. Thus, overweight parents indicate that their children are at a higher risk of being overweight than children of normal weight parents, because obese parents can pass on genes that predispose them to obesity, as well as lifestyle patterns and habits, to their children. which also contribute to overweight.

You can’t change your genes, but you can change your lifestyle and habits! Remember that “do as I do” sounds more convincing than “do as I say.” By sticking to a healthy diet, exercise and sleep schedule, you can set a good example for the whole family.

Summary: 10 tips to prevent childhood obesity in your family

1. Give your baby the best start by maintaining a healthy diet and weight during pregnancy; Consult with a dietitian to ensure that your diet during pregnancy meets your nutritional requirements regarding calories, fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

2. Breastfeed to promote healthy growth, hunger response, and the development of baby’s tastes by preparing him for a wide range of wholesome solid foods.

3. Teach yourself and your children that portion sizes should match the specific nutritional needs of each. Serve food in small portions.

4. Strive to prepare a balanced meal at home, and if this is not possible, train yourself to buy cooked foods and teach your child to choose the healthiest food in restaurants.

5. Encourage children to drink water, low-fat or skim milk, soy milk, or 100% fruit juice instead of soft drinks.

6. Let your family move more! Make sure your children get one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Make outdoor activities a family tradition.

7. Limit children’s screen time (TV, computer and video games) to two hours a day.

8. Be attentive to children’s need for sleep, study how many hours of sleep your children need, make sure they get enough sleep each night.

9. Practice “responsive” feeding, ask children about their hunger and satiety, share responsibilities during meals with children.

10. Apply the formula “do as I do” and not “do as I say”, teach by example models of healthy eating and an active lifestyle.  


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