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September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and state health officials are encouraging parents to talk with their children about healthy eating and physical activity.
“Children who are obese are more likely to be obese as adults,” said deputy state health commissioner Pam Pontones. “This can lead to lifelong physical and mental health problems, including diabetes and increased risk of certain cancers. As parents, we can help lead by example and talk with our kids about making healthy choices.”
Approximately one of every five children in the United States is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Indiana, almost 31 percent of children ages 10-17 were overweight or obese in 2015. The main causes of excess weight in youth are similar to those in adults and include lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating.
While there is no single solution, National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month provides an opportunity for parents and children to learn about ways to prevent and address this public health problem.
The Indiana State Department of Health offers families tips on how to eat better and move more:
• Don’t applaud clean plates. Teach your child to stop eating when full, not when the plate is clean.
• Pack healthy lunches. Replace chips with cut-up vegetables and low-fat dip or hummus, replace white bread with whole-grain bread and replace sugary desserts with fresh fruit.
• Replace sugary drinks like soda with water, 100 percent fruit juice or low-fat milk.
• For a quick and nutritious meal, use frozen vegetables. They are quick and easy to use and are just as nutritious as fresh vegetables.
• When eating out, ask for vegetables or a side salad instead of French fries.
• Turn off all electronic devices after dinner and instead take a family walk or bike ride, dance to music or play hide and seek together.
• Help children with physical limitations choose or adapt activities to meet their needs, such as playing wheelchair basketball or wheelchair tennis.