Sports Woman's legs in running movement

It’s almost fall again, the season when kids head back to school. We all want our nation’s youth to have healthy and bright futures. But the sobering statistics on childhood obesity paint a different picture.

Today, one in 3 children is overweight or obese. And that’s putting our youth at risk for diseases that once only adults had to worry about. Conditions like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and fatty liver disease used to be reserved for older adults. These days, overweight and obese kids are at risk of getting them, too. And these health issues tend to carry over into adulthood and may even get worse with age.

Since September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, let’s talk about what we can do to raise healthy kids. These simple steps can make a big difference.

Start with a healthy eating plan:

  • Start the day with a healthy breakfast. Kids who eat a healthy breakfast have more energy for the day. They are also less likely to snack on junk food or overeat later on.
  • Focus on fruits and vegetables. Get kids eating more fruits and veggies in place of high-calorie snacks and junk food. If you are a parent, you can model this by eating more fruits and veggies yourself.
  • Change what you drink. One of the biggest steps you can take as a family is to cut out sugar-sweetened drinks. Focus instead on water and low-fat milk.
  • Plan healthy meals as a family. Shop and cook together. And get the kids involved in the meal planning.

Look at ways to cut screen time:

  • Set limits on your family’s screen time. How much time does your family spend in front of screens—TV, video games, computers, tablets, smartphones? Set a house rule—say, 2 hours a day—to limit that time. Then make sure the whole family follows it. Remember, parents, you have to follow the rule, too.
  • Turn off the TV (and computer, and smart phone) at meals. Make meals a time when your family can connect, talk, share, and enjoy healthy food together.

Get the whole family moving:

  • Leave plenty of time for active play and exercise. Children and teens need at least an hour of physical activity a day. For children, this means active play. Young kids can run around, climb on playground equipment, and play active games. Older children and teens can play team sports and do recreational activities, like swimming, skating, and riding bikes.
  • Get moving as a family. Take family walks after dinner, rather than watching TV. Get out in the yard or local park and play active games. Or go on fun, active weekend outings—hike in local hills or parks, take family bike rides, or go seashell hunting at the beach or swimming at the local pool.

These are small changes, yes. But by adding them up, we can teach our kids to live healthy lives now and for years to come.