Did you know that about 1 in 5 (19%) children in the United States are obese? September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and provides a chance for all of us to learn more about this serious health issue.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines childhood obesity as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same sex and age. In other words, children and teens who are obese are above the normal weight for their age and height.

Childhood obesity is a serious medical condition and is particularly troubling because the extra pounds often put children at risk for health problems that were once only seen in adults such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Plus, obesity often leads to poor self-esteem and depression.

Preventing childhood obesity is not about counting calories. One of the best strategies to reduce childhood obesity is to improve the eating and exercise habits of your entire family:

  • Make outside activity a part of your daily routine. Take a bike ride around the neighborhood, go to the park or just go on an evening stroll. Whatever activity you choose will be a step in the right direction to help your child stay at a healthy weight.
  • Limit screen time at home. Children are sedentary most of the school day, so begin restricting the time they are watching tv, using tablets and playing video games at home to encourage more movement.
  • Eat healthier. Start by making small changes such as keeping fresh fruits and vegetables within reach for a healthier snack. Include children in meal planning, shopping and cooking and they will begin to take more of an interest in the foods they consume.

By making a few small changes as a family, you can treat and prevent childhood obesity and protect your child’s health now and in the future.