Even the researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were shocked: The number of children ages 2 to 5 who are obese has decreased by 43 percent, according to the latest large government study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In 2004, 14 percent of preschoolers had a weight problem, and the rate was only 8 percent in 2012. Experts believe that the drop may be related to the fact that more moms are breastfeeding (which helps babies learn to listen to their own hunger and fullness cues) and young kids are not drinking as many sugary beverages.
This is particularly great news because preventing a weight problem is obviously much easier than dealing with one. Children who are overweight or obese at age 3 to 5 are five times as likely to be overweight or obese as adults. It is certainly possible to help older kids slim down or at least slow their weight gain—especially when the whole family gets on board. But for parents of young children, the key is get into good habits and stick with them. You've heard plenty about the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables and being active, but also keep these three tips in mind:
Pour water. Make it the primary thirst-quencher in your family, rather than juice or soda. Of course, milk is important too. But avoid letting your toddler tote around a bottle or sippy cup filled with anything.
Just go outside. We are all struggling with the lure of screens. When kids get fresh air, they are naturally energized and eager to move around more. Even when it's cold.
Don't use food as a mood-booster. I have been guilty of doing this with my own kids. However, if children learn to seek out chocolate or cookies or pretzels when they're hurt or frustrated, they may do it throughout their life. Instead of offering a snack to distract your child, offer to play catch or join in the pretend-play game of her choice.
Use our Food and Recipe Guide to find quick and healthy meal ideas for your family.