September is here and although school is starting again, many children will continue “virtual” or distance learning where they are sitting at a computer screen all day with limited activity and the temptation to snack all day long. Even for those children returning to the classroom, there will be no scheduled gym periods or the chance to run around at recess. In light of this, September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness month and experts are increasingly concerned the Coronavirus pandemic may worsen childhood obesity, which is already an epidemic in our country. Since 1980, rates of obesity have doubled for kids ages 2 – 5, quadrupled for ages 6 – 11, and tripled for ages 12 – 19. Unfortunately, children with obesity are more likely to experience chronic illnesses, have physical and psychological problems, become obese adults, and have a shorter life expectancy.
What Can Parents Do?
- Get back to structure and routine. Be sure your kids eat a healthy breakfast every day, along with scheduled meals, snacks, vitamins, and bedtimes.
- Get rid of the junk. Remember your kids can’t eat unhealthy, processed and sugary foods if they’re not in the house.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand. Children will eat what’s available. Cut up easy to grab fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, popcorn, cheese sticks, whole-grain granola bars, or individual packs of nuts or raisins for healthy and quick snacks.
- Make water the beverage of choice. Encourage them to drink water instead of sugary juice or soda.
- Do something active every day with your kids. Go for a walk, ride bikes, play catch, or even dance in the house if it’s raining outside.
- Set a good example. Yes, we know this is tough, especially right now. But remember your kids are watching!
The good news is children appreciate and thrive under structure and routine, so adopting these habits now will set the stage for a healthy lifestyle even when things return to “normal” and beyond!
(1) An, Ruopeng. “Projecting the Impact of the Coronavirus Disease-2019 Pandemic on Childhood Obesity in the United States: A Microsimulation Model.” Journal of Sport and Health Science, vol. 9, no. 4, 2020, pp. 302–312., doi:10.1016/j.jshs.2020.05.006.
(2) Childhood Obesity Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 June 2019, www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/childhood.html#:~:text=Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in the United States&text=For children and adolescents aged,to 19-year-olds.
(3) Cimons, Marlene. “Covid-19 School Closings May Spur Childhood Obesity, Experts Warn.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 11 May 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/health/covid-19-school-closings-may-spur-childhood-obesity-experts-warn/2020/05/08/4bf71326-8e18-11ea-a9c0-73b93422d691_story.html.
(4) Workman, Joseph. “How Much May COVID‐19 School Closures Increase Childhood Obesity?” Obesity, 2020, doi:10.1002/oby.22960.