Helpful Hints to Avoid Childhood Obesity


tere-jones-author-101613When I was a little girl, my dad used to take my brother, sister and me hiking almost every weekend.  It was good for him AND us—both physically and emotionally. We took every opportunity to play family baseball in the park. My brother and I also played catch in the backyard after school. As active children, we routinely played tag and made up games to play with our friends just as an excuse to run around. Nowadays, it's all too easy for children to fall into a life of inactivity. TV and video games encourage a sedentary existence, setting up habits that are difficult to break as an adult.  That's why one of the best gifts parents can give their children is a lifestyle that encourages physical activity and healthy nutrition!

Health Problems Associated with Childhood Obesity

"The Vicious Cycle of Childhood Obesity" Courtesy of

Heart Disease

Obese children can be at risk for heart disease related to high cholesterol andor high blood pressure.  You normally think of these as adult problems, right? Overweight children can face the same issues.

Sleep Apnea

This sleep disorder is characterized by loud, difficult breathing.  Breathing can stop for more than 10 seconds, greatly lowering blood oxygen levels. Some cases of sleep apnea have been helped by simply losing weight.  Our hospital's Division of Pulmonology has a Sleep Laboratory that can test for sleep apnea and other night-time breathing disorders.

Type II Diabetes

When diabetes starts in childhood or adolescence, it can result in advanced complications such as cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) diseases and kidney failure. This medical problem is growing more common among overweight children, and our hospital has become a center for management of childhood diabetes.

Helpful Hints to Help Prevent Obesity

Be patient as you start to make changes. Studies show that it takes at least 21 days to lock a new habit into your lifestyle. I suggest making little changes daily that lead to a healthier family.

Healthy Eating

First, let’s talk about healthy eating habits. Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits and grains daily. Make sure to eat many different  colors of veggies and fruits to get a wide variety of nutrients.

  • Eat mostly lean meat for protein, like fish, chicken and turkey.
  • Drink lots of water and avoid juices and sodas containing excess sugar. (See the next section below for more details about water consumption.)
  • Limit the intake of foods and snacks with excess sugar. Read labels before you buy.
  • Remove  snacks and foods containing excess sugar from your home to eliminate temptation!
  • Avoid eating a lot of processed foods and eat fresh foods as much as possible.

How much water should my child drink?

As a general rule: take the person’s (or child's) weight in pounds and divide the number in half. That number represents the approximate number of ounces of water that adult or child should drink per day. For example, if a child weighs 50 lbs, he or she should drink approximately 25 ounces of water per day.

Snack with Health in Mind

  • 1 medium banana,
  • 1 medium apple,
  • 1 cup blueberries,
  • 1 cup grapes,(HINT: In the summer, freeze them and they make a cool crunchy snack.)
  • 1 cup skinned sliced cucumbers with fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt,
  • 1 cup crunchy fresh celery sticks cut into bite-size pieces,
  • 1 cup carrots, broccoli or bell peppers with 2 Tbsp of  hummus.

Portion Sizes by Age

Get Off the Couch!

Staying active has more benefits than just helping to manage weight. It can reduce stress and anxiety, increase self esteem, decrease blood pressure and strengthen bones.

  • Limit the time your children sit and watch TV every day. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend television viewing for children age 2 or younger.
  • Limit the time your children sit and play electronic games.
  • Encourage active games, sports after school, playing in the park.
  • Choose activities that you can do together, and if you cannot do this during the week, make plans to be active with your children on the weekends.
  • We all want to live long healthy lives. Let’s start our children out at the beginning to develop healthy habits that can last a lifetime!

Nutrition Resources

The Nutrition Center at Children's Hospital Los Angeles provides excellent online resources for parents looking for more information about how to prevent childhood obesity, including information about food allergies, healthy eating and nutrition tips, recipes as well as resources for children diagnosed with a health condition for which dietary changes are warranted.

Share with Other Parents

Our hospital is leading initiatives across Los Angeles to prevent childhood obesity.  One easy way to join us in this effort is to forward this blog post to other parents. Thank you!