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Curbing Childhood Obesity

Key Behaviors to Help Prevent Packing on Pediatric Pounds

Childhood obesity is a major public health concern and priority. Mounting evidence identifies the prenatal, infancy and early childhood periods as critical stages that strongly influence the risk for childhood obesity.

Marie Roth, registered dietitian for Blythedale Children’s Hospital and Kohls Eat Well, Be Well Program, shares the following tips:

Avoid excess pregnancy weight gain. A study of 10,000 babies found the offspring of women who gained excessive weight during pregnancy had a 48 percent higher risk of becoming overweight children. Adherence to the Institute of Medicine’s recommended weight gains, based on pre-pregnancy weight status, appears to offer significant protection to the fetus. How to avoid excessive pregnancy weight gain?

  • Focus on healthy food choices. Meals and snacks should consist of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, calcium-rich foods and lean proteins including low-mercury fatty fish 1 to 2 times per week. Some research suggests that fish oils (omega-3s) may enhance pregnancy duration as well as the child’s cognitive, visual and cardiovascular development.
  • Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages. Links between sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity are well-established. However, a recent study indicates waist circumferences and skinfold thicknesses are highest among kids whose mothers drink at least two servings of sugary drinks per day while pregnant. Even as little as a half serving resulted in body composition changes.
  • Make physical activity a priority. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, on all or most days to stave off excess weight and gestational diabetes.

Monitor infant growth charts. While chubby babies once signified health, recent studies show rapid early weight gains during infancy is associated with a higher risk of obesity in later childhood. How to prevent excessive infant weight gain?

  • Breastfeed. Breastmilk contains growth-regulating components that offer the baby protection against obesity. Breastfeeding also allows infants to self-regulate the volumes they consume at feedings. Numerous other health benefits for both mother and baby have been proven for breastfeeding.
  • Avoid the introduction of solid foods before 4 to 6 months. It’s an old wife’s tale that babies sleep better by adding cereal to the bottle. However, recent research findings suggest breastfeeding for more than 40 weeks and delaying the introduction of complimentary foods until after 20 weeks of age may significantly decrease the risk of obesity in early childhood.
  • Establish infant sleep patterns. Sleep durations less than 12 hours daily is also a risk factor for overweight and fat mass in young children. Short sleep durations are associated with elevated levels of ghrelin—the appetite stimulating hormone and lower levels of the satiety hormone, leptin. Parent practices that help infants “self-soothe” and develop normal circadian rhythms show great promise for increasing infant sleep cycles.


Kohl's Eat Well, Be Well Program

Blythedale Children's Hospital, through the generosity of Kohl’s Department Stores, is proud to offer Blythedale and Kohl's Eat Well, Be Well, an innovative outreach program designed to bring health and nutrition education to schools throughout Westchester and Putnam counties. Through this program, Blythedale staff members teach healthy eating habits to children by providing curricula, training and educational tools to school districts throughout the area. The program provides general nutrition guidelines to students, parents and school faculty. Blythedale Children's Hospital offers experts in nutrition and health-education to speak with local parenting groups, PTAs and school personnel.

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