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Childhood obesity is a serious health concern in Alabama since Alabama is listed among the top 20 states in the nation for the highest obesity rates among children ages 2 to 17. Unfortunately, obese children are more likely to become obese adults. The good news, however, is that obesity can be reversed with proper diet and exercise.

What is Childhood Obesity?

Childhood obesity is diagnosed when the body mass index (BMI) is at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex. This means that out of 100 children of the same age and sex, 95 would be considered to weigh less, and 5 would be considered to weigh more. Obese children who are not able to lose the extra weight are more likely to become obese adults. This is a health concern since obesity can lead to the development of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.

Common causes of childhood obesity include:

  • eating too much high-calorie food with little nutritional value
  • being inactive, which includes spending too much time on digital devices and not planning time for physical activity
  • lacking access to affordable, healthy food options; physical activity outlets; and peer and family support

Reduce the Risks

The following are tips to help reduce the risk of childhood obesity.

  • Utilize ChooseMyPlate as a tool to advise consumers on the amount of food to eat from each food group. The main goal of MyPlate is to encourage people to eat a variety of food. Eating a variety of food improves the chances of eating nutrients that help a body to be strong and healthy.
  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, such as dark green leafy vegetables and red, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose whole grain breads, rice, and pasta options.
  • Select low-fat dairy and lean protein foods.
  • Encourage children ages 6 to 17 to engage in moderate or vigorous exercise for 60 minutes each day. Children ages 3 to 5 should move throughout the day.
  • Model healthy food choices and physical activity for your children.
  • Find support from your child’s pediatrician, other families, school, church, or other community groups.

Make Healthy Living Fun

Reducing the risks of being overweight or obese does not have to be boring. Remember to start small, do family challenges, use technology, and celebrate the small victories.

  • Start small. Make a weekly goal like drinking more water instead of sodas or other sugary beverages.
  • Make it a family affair. Plan challenges and activities that everyone can get involved in. Everyone can help with meal time and a daily step challenge is fun!
  • Use the Start Simple with MyPlate App to pick daily food goals, see real-time progress, and earn fun badges along the way.
  • Celebrate reaching your goals, even the small ones.

More Information

The following resources can provide more information on healthy lifestyle development and childhood obesity.

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