The Prevalence of obesity for adults at 39.6% is at an alarming level, although just as alarming is the prevalence of obesity for children. Children between the ages of 2-19 have an obesity rate of 18.5%.(CDC & NHANES 2015-16). Overweight classification for children and adolescents is defined as having a BMI percentile range of 85th to <95 percentile. A BMI percentile greater than or equal to 95th percentile is defined as having obesity.
Presenting the BMI percentiles to parents and caregivers at yearly well-child visits or school check-ups can initiate changes in behavior. The method of obtaining the BMI percentile for children differs from that of adults. After you obtain the BMI as you would for adults, it is then graphed using the child’s age and gender (or by using a percentile calculator). The percentiles are population-based using national survey data collected from 1963-65 to 1988-94 (CDC). Meaning if an 8-year-old boy had a 95th BMI percentile, his BMI is greater than the BMI of 95% of other 8-year-old boys from the reference population.
Staying active and eating healthy is the best way to prevent obesity and overweight for children. Let’s Go by Maine Health and it’s message: 5-2-1-0 is being used nationally as a means of obesity prevention among children and adolescents because it is simple to remember and effective.
“5” Eat Five or More Servings of Fruits and Vegetables
A serving of vegetables for children is about the size of the palm of their hand. Substitute fresh cut raw vegetables in place of chips and crackers and pair with low-fat dressings, hummus or peanut butter. Keep fruits and vegetables washed and portioned and easily accessible for kids, choose a variety of colors, textures, and flavors. Don’t give up on any food with just one try—-kids can take up to ten tries before they decide that they like a food!
“2” Hours or Less of Recreational Screen Time
Increased screen time is linked to more snacking, lower reading scores, and attention problems (healthy365). Children under the age of 2 should have no screen time. Keep computers and TVs out of children’s bedrooms. For children ages 2-5, one hour of screen time is the guideline, after age 5, no more than 2 hours per day.
“1” hour or more of Physical Activity
One hour of play can promote well being, enhance confidence and promote physical and cognitive development. Choose from a variety of activities, both structured and unstructured play to prevent boredom and exercise various muscle groups.
“0” Sugary or Sugar Added Beverages
Eliminate or limit beverages like soda and replace with low-fat milk, water, and even seltzer. Limit fruit juice and choose fresh fruit instead. Add cucumbers, lemon or lime slices to flavor water, have children select the fruit or vegetable and experiment with different flavors.
5-2-1-0 is a great message for children and their caregivers that is easy to incorporate into their daily routine. Encourage kids to assess their 5-2-1-0 goals during family mealtime to see if they fell short in any part of the message. Have children come up with their own ideas to reach those goals before the day is over and take part in managing their health and staying on the path to wellness!
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