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Chubby Kids: Obesity Climbing in Preschoolers

Dr. Cederquist describes what we can do to help deter obesity in preschoolers and toddlers.

Those chubby cheeks are charming, but can lead to tough health problems later in life for our preschoolers. Every 1 in 5 children in the U.S. between 2-5 years old is overweight. And one in 10 infants and toddlers are overweight.  The Institute of Medicine reveals that contrary to the notion that young children grow out of their baby fat, it doesn’t appear to be entirely true. If they are overweight as kids, they are much more likely to be overweight and obese later on in life.

Catching them while they are young is critical, because diabetes and high blood pressure are showing up in older children, teens, and young adults.

Tune out TV

The Institute of Medicine recommends that the state and federal governments require day care centers and preschools to provide the opportunity for at least 15 minutes of physical activity per hour to toddlers and preschoolers.  They also have set the bar to limit TV/screen time to no more than 30 minutes per day for half-day programs. Full-day programs are advised to keep screen time less than one hour total daily.

This can prove tough, as TV can be a huge pacifier for youngsters. It keeps them occupied and out of trouble.  But it’s horrible for their health. Allowing kids to get up, run around, and play lets them use their imagination, be creative, and begin learning basic social skills.

Sweet Sleep

These same day care centers are advised to ensure kids have healthy sleep times during the day.

Studies have proven that kids who sleep less are more likely to develop diabetes.  For children under 2, they need about 12 hours each day. And children between 2-5 years old need at least 11 hours of restful sleep.

It’s a great idea to keep the TV out of a child’s bedroom, and ensuring a calm, quiet environment for sleeping and napping.  The Institute of Health advises that establishing a sleep routine that allows a regular schedule and pattern of sleeping will help improve kids’ health and mood.

It’s obvious that children in many day care settings are not getting enough physical activity through the day.  Children have a tendency to be active in short bursts.  If they have a few minutes each hour to expend some energy, they are improving their health the way their youthful bodies are naturally designed to.

Parents are a Huge Part

Parents in the US just aren’t yet aware of their kids health risks, according to recent studies.  They don’t realize when their child is overweight as a toddler or preschooler, that their child’s risk of being obese in a few years skyrockets.

Moms who breastfeed for at least 6 months tend to have kids who maintain a normal weight.  Kids actually begin establishing their food preferences and eating patterns leading up to the time when they are 2 years old. This makes it a vital time to help kids adjust to new tastes and sensations.  Any two-year-old will love french fries.  And they will love applesauce too. It’s up to parents to make a healthier choice for their children.

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