Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Angelica L Dumapit on April 18, 2022

How To Protect Your Child Against Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity numbers worsened during the pandemic, but research shows that children in the United States were already obese. In this guide, our experts provide their best tips for how to help your child maintain a healthy weight.

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As a parent, childhood obesity can sneak up on you. If your children are active and seem to eat like other children their age, you might not even consider them to have a weight problem.

However, research shows that childhood obesity has surged to unprecedented levels during the pandemic among children who were already obese before the pandemic began.

An estimated 22 percent of children in the United States are obese. This number is up from 19 percent the year before.

Therefore, it’s imperative to teach children how to care for their bodies so that they can carry these good habits with them into adulthood.

In this guide, our experts weigh in on the implications of childhood obesity and how to best support your child as they grow.

What Is Childhood Obesity?

Children and teens of the same age and sex with a body mass index (BMI) of 95% and above are defined as obese. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physician Tiang Sack Sing from Eu Yan Sang clinic shares a simple formula to calculate a child’s BMI (2-10 years old):  

Weight (kg) = age X 2 +7 (or + 8). For instance, a 6-year-old child’s normal weight will be about 19-20 kg. Any value above this is deemed overweight. 

Consequences Of Childhood Obesity

Children who are obese are at an increased risk of being obese as an adult, too.

The morbidity and mortality rate among future adults is highly dependent on the progression of childhood obesity. Unfortunately, children often come to seek treatment when their illnesses are at critical stages. 

Parents must be proactive enough to help their children curb this disease at an early age, preferably before the age of 3 years old before things go out of hand.

Sleep disturbances are also an adverse effect of childhood obesity. Obstructive sleep apnea and hypoventilation syndrome in children are some examples. A disruption in sleep causes an imbalance of the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood which overall affects a child’s quality of life. 

Childhood Obesity Prevention Tips

Physician Tiang says that parents should set a good example in diet and daily life maintenance, such as: 

1. Avoid overeating

Avoid overeating as much as possible. Leave some room in the stomach for digestion and facilitate nutrient absorption.

2. Eat a balanced diet

Children and adults alike should be getting five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Other healthy foods to include in your child’s balanced diet include lean protein, whole grains, healthy fats (like olive oil and avocado), and low-sugar dairy products.

3. Encourage your child to move more

Exercise can promote the metabolic function of the spleen, improve the digestive system, and distract children from their obsession with food. 

How To Correct Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits

Prevention is one of the hallmarks of pediatric practice. As a result of the increase in the prevalence of overweight and inactivity amongst children and adolescents, you should focus on preventive efforts in association with medical diseases and their persistence into adulthood.

According to the Universal Anticipatory Guidance for Obesity Prevention, here are some lifestyle milestones to hit during each stage of your child’s development.

CHILD AGE  LIFESTYLE TARGETS  
PREGNANCY  1. Advocate good nutrition and maintain appropriate maternal gain.
2. Prevent gestational diabetes.
3. Encourage breastfeeding benefits and plans to stimulate breast milk production.
INFANTS  1. Encourage exclusive breastfeeding for a minimum of 6 months.
2. Solid foods should be introduced only after 6 months of age.
3. Moderate weight gain throughout childhood.
TODDLERS  1. Establish regular meal patterns and timing.
2. Broaden diet with healthy products.
3. Limit sweetened beverages.
4. Portion control of food.
5. Encourage physical playtime.
6. Establish healthy television habits.
7. Positive encouragement to reinforce healthy choices.
8. Parents to be role models for children to follow.
SCHOOLING CHILDREN  All of the above and:
1. Increase school outdoor activities and sports.
2. Family outdoor sporting activities or playtime.
3. Support healthy body images.
ADOLESCENTS  Prevent and discourage:
1. Excessive take-out or restaurant meals.
2. Meal-skipping.
3. Snacking instead of proper meal portions.
4. Quitting sports or physical activity.
Follow the tips in this chart to keep your child healthy as they age.

Dietary Tips To Help Prevent Childhood Obesity

Encourage your child to eat healthy at a young age so they carry these habits with them into adulthood.

From the Western perspective, food greatly contributes to the weight loss process. If you’re a parent, you can educate your children from a young age on the benefits of healthy, nutritious food instead of focusing on just the flavor.

According to TCM, children can improve their physique and health through diet therapy or a Chinese medicine regimen. Physician Tiang says that generally obese children have dysfunction of the spleen-stomach digestive system, and most of them have qi (vital energy) deficiency and phlegm dampness. 

Herbal soups have multiple beneficial factors. In terms of Chinese patent medicine, Bu Qi Jian Zhong Pills can regulate children’s body constitution. A licensed TCM Physician will have to prescribe these pills and the efficacy of treatments will vary based on each individual.

According to one study, Panax Notoginseng contains anti-obesity properties that may help combat childhood obesity. Specifically, it has been shown to reduce lipid synthesis, inhibit adipogenesis, promote white adipose tissue browning, increase energy consumption, and improve insulin sensitivity.

You can buy Panax Notoginseng in capsule form and add them to your child’s water, low-sugar yogurt, or smoothie. However, it’s important to always remember to consult with a registered TCM physician before giving your child any supplements.

Other supplements that may complement a child’s diet include a high-fiber oat drink. Remember, there is no guarantee of success, and treatment options must be carefully evaluated by a medical professional before consumption.

Various food preparations can be introduced to make it look fun and attractive to children. Entice them with colors of real foods, such as papayas, oranges, apples, and tomatoes, and educate them about the nutritional benefits of these foods.

Final Thoughts On Childhood Obesity

Never try to self-medicate your child unless you speak with your child’s doctor or a registered TCM physician first.

As a parent, your children’s health and nutrition matter to ensure they grow to live a healthy life. Slowly but surely, you can encourage them to eat healthy foods and stay active during the day. Don’t hesitate to consult with a pediatrician, nutritionist, or your trusted TCM professional for proper guidance.

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