10 Reasons for Childhood Obesity and How to Prevent It From Happening

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by Dr. Christopher Haines

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01.15.2022

10 Reasons for Childhood Obesity and How to Prevent It From Happening

Kids Health Secrets | Blue Emerald Wellness

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in three children in the United States is overweight or obese. Childhood obesity has been linked to a variety of problems, such as asthma, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes mellitus and bone and joint problems. In this article, we’ll talk about 10 reasons for childhood obesity and how to prevent it from happening.

1. Unhealthy or processed foods

Unhealthy or processed foods can cause a child to become overweight

The main reason for childhood obesity is eating unhealthy foods and in large quantities. Most processed foods are high in sugar, fat and salt. These foods can cause weight gain because they are calorie-rich, but nutrient poor.

Tip: try to cook more meals at home and pack your child’s lunch with healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grain bread.

2. Lack of physical activity

Lack of physical activity and watching TV can cause childhood obesity

Another reason kids become overweight is a lack of physical activity. Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day to stay healthy. Experts say that children under the age of 18 are not getting enough physical activity and are spending too much time on sedentary activities like watching television and playing video games, which can lead to weight gain. The average child spends more than seven hours a day in front of a screen. This equates to more than six hours that are spent sitting, watching TV and playing video games.

There are many ways to get your children moving and to be active. Try organizing family walks or bike rides, signing them up for dance classes or sports teams, playing tag or other games outside, or any number of creative ideas that can be found online. Just be sure that your kids are truly enjoying the activity so that they can look forward to doing it often. If the activity is a chore, it will not be long before they are back to using their television or gaming systems.

Tip: Keep TVs and other screens out of their bedroom so children will get more sleep and become more engaged in family time.

3. Sleep

Not getting enough sleep can cause childhood obesity

Children can become overweight if they are not getting enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that kids aged six to thirteen get nine to ten hours of sleep per night. Studies have shown that children who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight or obese. One reason for this is because when kids don’t get enough sleep, they tend to eat more unhealthy foods and make poor food choices.

Tip: Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep by establishing bedtime routines including winding down for 30 minutes before bedtime and turning off all screens (TVs, phones, laptops) 30 minutes before sleep.

4. Genetics

Genetics can cause childhood obesity

Family genetics may also play a role in childhood obesity. If one or both parents are obese, their children have a higher chance of becoming obese, too. Parental obesity also tends to lead to unhealthy eating habits in children.

5. Medical conditions

Medical conditions like hyperthyroidism can cause a child to be overweight

There are certain medical conditions that increase the likelihood of obesity, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s Syndrome. If a child has one of these conditions they should consult their doctor to get treatment for it.

6. Excess sugary drinks

Sugary drinks can cause childhood obesity

Excess intake of sugary drinks, like soda and juice, are a common cause of childhood obesity. In addition to sugary drinks adding to excess caloric intake, they also cause a feeling of being full with decreased healthy food intake as a result. Children should be encouraged to drink sugar-free drinks as well as water instead to stay hydrated.

7. Mental Health

Poor mental health can cause a child to become obese

Mental health disorders in children have increased in the US over the last decade. Unfortunately, mental health disorders can be associated with obesity. As a result, some children who are depressed or have anxiety disorders often turn to food for comfort, which can result in weight gain. If your child is overeating, try to find out the reason why and help them deal with it.

Tip: If you think your child may be struggling with a mental health disorder, consult their pediatrician for help.  

8. Environmental

Environmental factors like vending machines can be a source for childhood obesity

Even with a well-balanced, healthy diet at home, there are also environmental factors that contribute to childhood obesity. For example, many schools have vending machines that sell unhealthy foods and drinks. This can be coupled with the typical busy life of kids/parents and families where fast foods become an easy option between activities.

9. Vitamins/Minerals/Balanced diet

An unbalanced diet can cause childhood obesity

A lack of a healthy, balanced diet can lead to nutritional deficits in vitamins and minerals. This may be associated with weight gain if the child is not getting all the nutrients they need.

Tip: If you think your child may be struggling with portion control or a healthy, balanced diet, consult their pediatrician for meal preparation guidance.  

10. Medications

Medications can cause a child to be overweight

When searching for reasons for increased weight gain in your child, make sure you investigate medications. Some medications can cause weight gain in children. If your child is taking medication and has started to put on weight, consult your doctor to see if a different medication is available.

What are the solutions for preventing childhood obesity?

The good news is that as parents you can take some steps to prevent childhood obesity from ever becoming an issue with your child and it doesn’t have to be hard work. Here are few of our top suggestions:

  • Incorporate regular physical activity into daily life
  • Have fun with playing active games (avoid/limit screen TV & video games)
  • Walk instead of driving when possible
  • Ride bikes together (don’t forget the helmets)
  • Take walks after dinner
  • Eat healthy snacks – fresh fruit & vegetables over chips/candy
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Get adequate sleep – set bedtimes/wake times
  • Develop healthy eating habits at home by modeling healthy eating yourself- cook together, sit down for family meals
  • Make exercise enjoyable – find an activity your child enjoys and do it together as a family

As you can see, there are many different factors that contribute to childhood obesity.  But with some preventive steps and by being mindful of the risks, parents can help ensure their children maintain a healthy weight and avoid developing obesity.

 

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For more information and resources on your baby’s or child’s health, parent tips and tricks, pediatric emergencies, please visit our website or blog. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. You can also visit our website to download free PDF guides and hear our podcasts.

The information in this blog is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content is for general information purposes and is the opinion of staff at Blue Emerald Wellness. Please do not delay seeking medical advice or treatment because of something you read in this blog.

Authored by Azure Sullivan & Dr. Christopher Haines

Disclosure: We only recommend products we would use ourselves and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a small commission. Read our full privacy policy here.

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