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We’ve all heard the statistics: Childhood obesity is on the rise.

It’s been on the rise for the past three decades. Despite all the government warnings and our best intentions, the statistics keep working against us. They are both shocking and scary:

  • Nearly 1 in 3 children in America is overweight or obese. In minority communities, that number jumps to 40 percent.
  • Obese children are two and a half times more likely to become—and remain—obese adults.
  • Obese children have lower self-esteem, are more frequently bullied and have twice the rate of teen suicidal thoughts as teens of normal weight.

Unfortunately, this is just where the statistics start. Obesity can lead to much worse problems, like diabetes. Type 2 diabetes was once considered a rare disease of elderly aged individuals. In 1994, less than 5 percent of children were diagnosed with the disease. In more recent years that number has quadrupled.

While the situation may seem grim, it’s important to remember that more than 80 percent of all children and teens with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Of these, 40 percent are clinically obese. Therefore, it’s crucial to learn about childhood obesity prevention to make significant changes.

Here are 5 things you can do to start preventing childhood obesity today:

  1. Limit Television and Video Game Time—First and foremost, children have to get off the couch, turn off the television, close the computer and put down the video games. In some circumstances, these devices can account for up to 8 hours of a child’s day. While electronics can be educational tools, they need to be balanced with healthy exercise and outdoor time. A childhood obesity prevention tip is to pick a limit for your child or teen and stick to it.
  1. Educate Children on Smart Nutritional Choices—Today the average child eats 3 snacks per day. Many of these snacks are sugar and starch-laden processed foods that are high calorie and low on nutritional value. Educating children about the impact of food choices is a big step in preventing childhood obesity and can lead to healthier selections for the future.
  1. Enroll Kids in a Team Sport or Other Athletics—Despite the prevalence of sports on television, enrollment rates in team sports for kids ages 6 to 17 decreased by 4% from 2008 to 2012. This is unfortunate not just for the lack of exercise, but also for the many other beneficial social and learning aspects these activities provide. If your child’s school doesn’t offer a team sport they enjoy then try calling your local health clubs, recreational and other similar organizations. They could offer everything from dance and gymnastics classes to martial arts and archery lessons. Find one (or a few) your child likes and get them signed up.
  1. Plan Family Weekend Activities— Make it a priority to do family outings on weekend days that center around activities.   There are countless fun options including parks, hikes, family bike rides, and more. It’s easier for your children to keep active when the whole family is involved.
  1. Set the Example—As a parent you know the influence your actions have over your child’s actions. If you eat poorly or spend your days in front of the television and generally lack exercise, it’s likely this impresses the same habits upon your kids. Studies show that children make wiser choices when they have a support structure in place to help them make those decisions. You can be that support for your child.