A child’s nutrition has always been a reason for concern, both for parents and the pediatricians. After all, right nutrition during the early years plays a huge role in the proper growth and development of a child – both mentally and physically. Not just that, it also paves a way for healthy adulthood. 

But even after so much awareness, overweight and obesity are becoming increasingly common in children and adolescents. Today 1 in every 3 American children is either obese or overweight and more than half of these children are likely to grow into obese adults. 

Is Weight Only About Numbers on the Scale?

Absolutely not! Weight gain has an impeding effect on your child’s overall health and well-being. Excessive weight in childhood and teenage not only increases their chances of growing into obese adults, childhood obesity is also tied to the persistent risk of cardiometabolic diseases during adulthood.  

In fact, atherosclerosis – the hardening and narrowing of arteries due to excessive buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances – progresses from childhood to adolescent to adulthood, and children who are obese are extremely prone to various cardiometabolic risk factors, including: 

  • Glucose intolerance 
  • High blood pressure 
  • High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol 
  • Low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol 

All these factors increase the child’s risk for developing cardiovascular diseases later in life. Though the silent buildup of plaque starts in childhood, obese children and teens usually don’t show the symptoms of heart disease until they enter their adult life. That’s why, it’s important to manage and maintain children’s weight right from the early years to keep them healthy and disease-free later in life. 

 Learn more about : The factors that increase your risk of heart disease

What Should a Child Eat?

Most parents stay confused when it comes to their child’s nutrition. How much should my child eat? Is he getting enough nutrients? Enough calcium? Iron? Too much fat? 

Well, no matter the age, a balanced diet is essential for the child’s overall physical and mental development. As children have high requirements of energy, they need foods that are high in energy, but that definitely does not mean that they should be allowed to eat high-calorie, processed junk every alternate meal. Nor should their diet be low in fat and high in fiber as it will not provide enough energy for a young child to grow. 

Here’s a balanced, heart-friendly diet plan that you must adopt to keep your children healthy and happy: 

  • Protein: Include poultry, eggs, seafood, and lean meat into your child’s diet. Beans, peas, soy products, and nuts and seeds (unsalted) should also be a part of their regular diet. 
  • Vegetables: Serve your kids a variety of fresh, frozen, canned, or dried vegetables. Choose a variety of vegetables and try to make their plate as colorful as possible. Include dark green leafy vegetables, red and yellow bell peppers, zucchini, beans and peas, and starchy vegetables to up their nutrient quotient. 
  • Fruits: Give your child a variety of fresh, dried or frozen fruits to eat. Encourage them to always pick a fruit instead of fruit juice. Even if you have to serve juice, prefer fresh juice over packed varieties and serve it without added sugars. 
  • Grains: Constitute your child’s plate using whole grains. Always prefer whole-wheat breads, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, and brown or wild rice over refined grains. In fact, try to limit their refined foods such as white bread, pasta and rice to only once or twice a week. 
  • Dairy: The best source of calcium, your child must consume fat-free or low-fat dairy products on regular basis. This includes milk, cheese, yogurt, and fortified soy beverages.
  • Fats: Limit food items that are rich in saturated fats that lead to increased levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood and pave way for heart diseases. Give red meat, full-fat dairy products, and processed food varieties only in moderation. Choose vegetable oil and nut oils over saturated fats to provide essential fatty acids and vitamin E to your child. To include healthier fats into your child’s diet, rely on olives, nuts, avocados and seafood.  
  • Sugars: Refined sugars are the main culprit behind most diseases. They only provide empty calories and make your child prone to various metabolic disorders. Try to fulfil your child’s sugar requirements through natural sugars, like the ones present in fruit and milk. Refrain your kid from eating foods that contain added sugars, like brown sugar, honey, corn syrup, and others. Choose cereals with minimal added sugars and limit all canned drinks, as they are storehouse of empty calories. 
  • Sodium: Excessive sodium intake leads to increase in blood pressure, which increases the cardiometabolic risk for your child’s heart. For a healthy heart, limit your child’s sodium intake. Instead of chips, burgers, and fries, encourage them to snack on fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, check the nutrition labels carefully to pick foods that are low in sodium.   

Additional Tips to Help Children Reach Their Ideal Weight and Stay Heart Healthy

In addition to perking up their nutrition quotient, parents must try to: 

  • Limit their kid’s trips to the fast food restaurants. Even when you go, you must try to keep a tab on their portion size. 
  • Encourage children to stay hydrated, and by that we mean only through water. 
  • Include at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day in their meals. 
  • Limit their sedentary activities. This includes watching TV, mobile, using computer and more. 
  • Motivate them to participate in 60 minutes of rigorous physical activity on most days of the week. Skipping, jogging, swimming, running in the park, playing with friends are all good exercises – both for heart as well as for weight management.
  • Schedule their annual physicals regularly to keep an expert eye on their overall health and well-being. 

At EPIC Health, we conduct annual wellness exams to help parents monitor and maintain their child’s health and keep them healthy and happy. Our expert pediatricians screen your child on various parameters to detect any upcoming or ongoing health issue and provide rigorous treatment for their absolute well-being. We also provide complete nutritional support to help reduce childhood obesity and prevent cardiometabolic risks that may lead to serious cardiovascular diseases later in life. 

If you have a child who’s obese or overweight, it’s time to take control of his health. Schedule an appointment with our expert pediatricians today. We can help your child live happy, healthy and better!