Use Summer to Reset Children’s Habits

play outsideA new Institute of Medicine report outlines strategies to decrease the soaring childhood obesity rates in the United States. According to an article about the report, published by HealthDay News, the rates of overweight and obese children in the United States, ages 2 to 5, have doubled since the 1980s. Around 10 percent of children between birth and 2 years old are overweight or obese and more than 20 percent of children ages 2 to 5 are overweight or obese. The key recommendations of the report focused on identifying overweight children, encouraging more physical activity, and promoting better sleep habits.

We spoke with Dr. Laura Machado, bariatric surgeon and Medical Director of  Sacramento Bariatric Medical Associates about the report.  She agreed with its emphasis on the the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to fight childhood obesity, saying “establishing the basics of proper diet, activity, and sleep can go a long way towards reversing the problems children in American now face. Obesity in children is much more than larger clothing sizes, it can mean blood pressure medications and diabetes treatments for what used to be thought of as ‘adult’ diseases”.

She explained how when we think back to our own childhood years, we might recall one or two overweight classmates. “Taking a look at our society today, obesity in children is many times more common,” Machado said. “One only has to take a look around Disneyland for an example of how prevalent this problem has become.”

Dr. Machado believes that summertime is a perfect opportunity to reset the routine of our children. She recalls being told to ‘go outside and play’ repeatedly when she was young and explained that “we should use the summer as a time when regular sleep schedules can be re-established, along with appropriate meal times to avoid excess snacking. Growing vegetables or shopping at farmer’s markets is a great opportunity to introduce new colors of the rainbow into children’s diets. We are creatures of habit and making positive changes now can result in huge health benefits for these children as they approach adulthood,” Machado concluded.


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