the girl eats a green Apple, but dreams about hamburger.

Every fall, National Childhood Obesity Month aims to raise awareness about the problem of childhood obesity in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 14 million American children are obese.

Unfortunately, childhood obesity can lead to heart disease, respiratory issues, joint problems, Type 2 diabetes and a number of other serious physical and psychological health conditions. While genetics play a role, behavior and lifestyle choices are also determining factors. Here’s how parents can help children manage their weight.

Diet

A balanced diet is one of the cornerstones of maintaining a healthy weight, and fostering good cooking and eating habits starts at home. Favor fruits, vegetables and whole grains as well as lean proteins like fish, poultry, beans and meat substitutes. It’s also important to limit fast foods and sugary drinks. Instead, offer children homemade meals and plenty of water.

Exercise

In addition to helping kids regulate their weight, regular physical activity can reduce anxiety and improve self-esteem.

Children between the ages of three and five should spend at least three hours per day engaging in some form of physical activity. Children aged six to 17 should exercise at least 60 minutes per day. Limiting screen time can help young people foster an active lifestyle.

Sleep

Multiple studies have established a link between poor sleep and a higher risk of obesity. The CDC recommends that children between the ages of six and 12 get nine to 12 hours of sleep per day. For youth aged 13 to 18, the recommendation is eight to 10 hours per day.

If you’re worried about your children’s weight, be sure to consult a health-care professional. By working with a physician, you can help your kids manage their health.

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