Focus on more than just weight loss in kids
Do positive lifestyle changes impact obese children more than normal-weight children?
A recent study by the UCLA School of Nursing says no. They found that lifestyle modifications can have an equal impact on both types of children.
This study, published online in the American Journal of Physiology, is considered the first to directly investigate how changes in diet and exercise would affect obese children differently than normal-weight children. Both groups of children participated in a two-week residential program where they ate a low-fat, high-fiber, plant-based diet and exercised daily.
None of the children lost a significant amount of weight. However, the lifestyle changes significantly improved the metabolic and cardiovascular health of all the kids. Although the study was only two weeks, researchers found an immediate impact on lowering the risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The researchers concluded that a healthy diet and exercise habits benefit a normal-weight child as much as an obese child. The study highlights the importance of incorporating healthy habits on a daily basis versus focusing on weight loss alone.
“Obesity is an epidemic in our society that deserves a lot of attention,” Dr. Susarla says. “This study is a good reminder that healthy habits should be encouraged for everyone, no matter their weight.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics has practical suggestions for how to include healthy habits into any family’s daily life:
Try to plan meals ahead so that you can provide the best nutritional options. Pay attention to portion sizes.
- Eat three nutritious meals a day – incorporate fresh vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or non-fat dairy and lean and skinless meats.
- Have two healthy snacks a day – fruit, vegetables with dip and whole-grain crackers are great options.
- Avoid sugary drinks.
- Reserve sweets, such as candy, cookies and ice cream, for special occasions.
- When you are preparing meals, use low-fat cooking methods like broiling or steaming. Also try to limit the butter and salt you add to recipes.
After checking with your child’s pediatrician, incorporate fitness into your family routine.
- Choose fun activities that will keep your child interested.
- Select an activity that is age-appropriate. Taking a walk, playing in the park, swimming, riding a bike or team sports are good options.
- Make active toys, such as balls and jump ropes, readily available.
- Stay active with your child and be a good role model.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.