Helping kids stay at a healthy weight

Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 24, 2014 at 5:00 p.m.

Q: I was a fat kid, so I've worked hard to stay at a healthy weight as an adult. Now I have a 4-year-old and he's becoming overweight, too. Help!

— Susie R., Akron, Ohio

A: We're pleased you want to help your son have a long and healthy life — kids do need to maintain a healthy weight and get plenty of physical activity right from the start. A new study reveals that around half of children who are overweight before age 5 are on a fast track for obesity. The researchers tracked more than 7,700 kids, starting in kindergarten: At that point 12 percent were obese; 15 percent were overweight. By eighth grade 21 percent were obese and 17 percent were overweight. And these kids are developing health problems we used to see only in adults: high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and elevated LDL cholesterol. Plus, obese kids don't feel good about themselves, and that can impact how well they do in school and throughout life.

Five basic steps can turn this around.

1. Walk or exercise with your child for two hours a day; you'll get healthier, too, and build a closer relationship.

2. Limit screen time: Kids under age 2 should have none. Others (including you, Susie) are limited to one to two hours max.

3. Remove unhealthy treats and syrup- and sugar-added foods and beverages from the house. No artificially sweetened drinks, either; they just promote your child's taste for sweet sodas!

4. Cook from “almost scratch.” And dish up healthy breakfasts; another study found that kids who skip breakfast or have an unhealthy one are 68 percent more likely to develop metabolic syndrome and face the consequences of becoming an overweight or obese adult.

5. Stay positive. Talk to your child about the importance of eating right, so he can accomplish whatever he sets his sights on. A child is never too young to understand that you love him and want him to feel and do his best.

Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.

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