Food for Thought: A Prescription For Obesity Prevention

Food for Thought:
A Prescription For Obesity Prevention 
September 2018, Obesity Awareness Month


By Rebecca Unger, MD

What if there was a “medicine” that prevented diabetes, heart disease, orthopedic problems, liver disease, mental health disease, and sleep disorders?

Since all of those conditions are related to obesity, preventing obesity is a vital strategy to reduce the risk of those serious medical problems. Incorporating practical tips into your family lifestyle to prevent obesity is an important pill to swallow!! Pediatricians and other primary care providers have a crucial role in obesity prevention, by screening for overweight and obesity and offering practical tips to help with healthy habits from the very beginning.  Early advice and early identification of an unhealthy pattern or growth trend can make a big difference.

It is especially timely to focus on healthy nutrition and physical behaviors because the rate of obesity continues to rise in adults and in children.  One in five children are obese and the rates continue to increase, even though there has been more public health focus on obesity and related health behaviors. Family based interventions are being evaluated, and evidence supports the importance of early intervention since high-risk behaviors start at an early age. Children who are obese are likely to remain at risk for later obesity and medical problems related to obesity.

Practical tips for the whole family:

  1. Make healthy food as easily accessible as possible and keep these options readily available: a water pitcher, cut up fruit and vegetables, yogurt, homemade granola, sandwich fixings.
  2. Be careful with portion sizes: 10 years ago bagels used to be 3 inches, now they are 6 inches and have 2.5x more calories.  When eating out, share food, eat ½ and bring the rest home to eat later.
  3. Eat breakfast: Skipping breakfast has been associated with obesity. Plan ahead for hectic mornings by brainstorming with your family about healthy options that are quick to prepare and, at the very least, easy to eat on the go (smoothies, egg burgers, yogurt with fruit/nuts, PB sandwich)
  4. Cook together: You will learn from your children and your children will learn from you. This is important.
  5. Limit sugary beverages.  Sugar-sweetened drinks have no benefit and can cause health problems such as obesity, tooth decay and possibly increase risk for heart and liver disease. Limit sugar sweetened drinks to zero!
  6. Enjoy screen free dinners: You will eat healthier portion sizes. Reconnect, tell stories, and listen in. A lot happens at the family meal table.

Adapted from Obesity prevention: AAP Policy Explained, by Kelsey Sisti, MD

Skinner, et al. Prevalence of obesity and severe obesity in US children, 1999-2016. Pediatrics 2017:141

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