The rate of childhood obesity has tripled in the United States over the past 30 years. Today, about one in three children is overweight or at risk of becoming overweight.
“Obesity in children causes health problems that aren’t typically seen until adulthood like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and elevated blood cholesterol levels,” said Dr. Pamela Luna, a health administrator for First 5 Riverside, a Riverside County agency that supports early childhood development through educational outreach, partnerships and funding. “These health problems negatively impact children for years, including their success in school and beyond.”
But by using simple prevention strategies, parents can help reverse the trend of childhood obesity, Luna said.
Studies show that healthy eating habits and exercise can improve a child’s self-esteem, ability to learn and overall health. In recognition of March as National Nutrition Month, First 5 Riverside encourages parents to incorporate healthy alternatives in their child’s diet and help prevent childhood obesity.
Here are some tips:
- Nutritionists recommend that toddlers eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Aim to include at least one with every meal, including snack time.
- Keep portion sizes small. Toddlers don’t require many calories, so it’s important to serve age-appropriate servings. The general rule of thumb is one tablespoon of each food for each year of age.
- Stick to a regular meal schedule. Toddlers as young as 1 year old should eat three meals and just two snacks daily, three to four hours apart.
At www.eatmovegrow.org, families can find more helpful tips, a Health Education E-Toolkit, games and details on how to get a free Yummy for Your Tummy Recipe Booklet featuring fun, easy and nutritious recipes by Celebrity Chef LaLa. Or, call 800-266-3880.