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Helping kids toward a healthy weight

April 10, 2002|BY LYNN F. LITTLE

By Lynn F. Little

Some call it a crisis. Some call it an epidemic. Whatever you call it, there are some very serious concerns developing about the weight, fitness and health of American children and teenagers.

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of young people who are obese, overweight or at risk of becoming overweight.

Weight problems then put these kids at risk for a whole list of serious problems, like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, unsafe weight loss practices and eating disorders.

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Many factors contribute to the weight gain of Generation XXL: super-sized portions (especially in fast food restaurants), dramatic increases in soft drink intake (up 500 percent in the past five years), and low-intake of lower-calorie choices (like fruits and veggies).

Kids are eating more and moving less - thanks to electronic entertainment's three Ns: Nintendo, Nickelodeon and Netscape. Kids spend many hours sitting in front of TVs, and computer video games have made play a sedentary activity.

Diets are not the solution for overweight children. Trying to control your child's food intake may actually backfire and make them fatter. The best way to help kids achieve a healthy weight is for parents and other adults to be role models. If you are worried about your child's weight, look for easy, simple ways to improve your whole family's eating habits and activity patterns.

Healthful food choices can be delicious and fun. Start by replacing some soft drinks with water, low-fat milk and 100 percent juices. Keep fewer chips and cookies in the house - and make sure that fruits and veggies are readily available when hungry kids need a quick snack.

If you would like to have ideas on simple, easy ways to get your children to enjoy more fruits in their diet as well as some ideas for active play, send a self-addressed, stamped (34-cent) business-size envelope to: MCE - Washington County, 7303 Sharpsburg Pike, Boonsboro, MD 21713. Mark the envelope, "IDEAS."

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with the Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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