General News

Obesity in Children and Adolescents

Posted on Sep 28, 2017

Dr. Jasmine Reese

September is national childhood obesity awareness month and we know that 1 in 6 children in the United States are overweight or obese and there are even higher rates among our young adolescents and teens. Jasmine Reese, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and director of adolescent medicine at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, shares important information about ways families can help prevent obesity in their kids and adolescents.

Why is obesity awareness so important?

We help our children and adolescents tackle obesity because it can have a huge impact on their current and future health. For example, obesity can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and even mental health problems. In the clinic, we are routinely screening for overweight status and obesity so that we can appropriately counsel patients and families on healthy diets and routine physical activity. We follow the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics and classify weight by calculating an individual’s body mass index (BMI). Overweight status is defined as a BMI in the 85th-94th percentile and obesity is a BMI of greater or equal to the 95th percentile.

What can families do to prevent obesity?  

Try to make small changes in not only your child’s diet but in the family’s diet. It is helpful for your child or teen to feel that you are all in this together. Adding more fruit and vegetable options for your family dinners and snacks is a great way to start to incorporate healthy diet changes. Portion control is also a great way to ensure we aren’t over-eating as is routine physical activity. Participating in physical activity with the entire family is a great way to feel encouraged and hold each other accountable.

What are some healthy food tips for children and adolescents to follow?

Some helpful food tips might include avoiding high calorie foods and sugary beverages. Try to choose low-fat or no-fat dairy products such as low-fat milk and cheese. Avoid adding the high calorie toppings to your meals such as extra butter, gravy or syrup. Include vegetables in your meals and try to choose the lean cut meats and poultry. Avoid fried foods and instead bake, broil, or grill your foods. For snacks or desserts, try some fresh fruit or yogurt. Portion control with all meals and eating sweets in moderation is always important.

What is an easy way to remember a healthy diet plan for our children and adolescents?

Every child’s nutrition plan will vary based on his or her age, development, and level of physical activity. However, a simple way to help keep you on track in making healthy decisions is to remember the general principle of 9-5-2-1-0. We want our kids and teens to get nine hours of sleep each night, eat five servings of fruits and veggies each day, have no more than two hours of screen time per day, one hour of daily physical activity and consume no sugary beverages.

This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.

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