A study in the journal Pediatrics looked at children from over 19,000 families. The habits that were connected to more weight gain had to do with disrupted routines such as not getting enough sleep or skipping breakfast.

Helping children grow up with a healthy weight

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As we know, obesity among our young people is at an all-time high.  From elementary school age through high school, kids are carrying excess weight that places them at risk for a whole host of chronic diseases and ailments as they get older. A British study recently published in the journal Pediatrics looked at lifestyle habits of children in the first 10 years of life to see if there were any possible predictors for developing obesity. And there were!

The study looked at children from over 19,000 families. They were assessed at ages three, five, seven and eleven. Researchers looked at their diet, sleep habits and amount of time in front of the TV.  The habits that were connected to more weight gain had to do with disrupted routines such as not getting enough sleep or skipping breakfast. We already know from previous research that there may be a connection between a child’s weight and the mom smoking during pregnancy and/or mom gaining excess weight during pregnancy.             

This was an observational study of young children but it did show results that matched previous research. What are some parenting lessons that we might glean from this research for overweight and obesity prevention in our children?

  • You hear the old adage three square meals, and this is a good reminder that kids do need three solid meals with a variety of foods evenly spaced throughout the day. This nourishes their body and helps them reach full growth potential. With the inclusion of breakfast, too, kids are better able to concentrate in school, and also do not reach lunch or dinner starved, which can result in overeating.
  • Kids do need lots of sleep. Have a regular set time for bed, preceded with bedtime routines such as baths, story time, talking about the day, and of course cuddle time. This makes for happier, healthier children and happier parents, too!

Recipes to try:

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About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.