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NEWS | Aug. 28, 2014

Good nutrition key to a successful school year

By Capt. Jennifer Pugliese 628th Medical Group pediatric element leader

As the new school year begins, many summer activities are coming to an end. The pools will soon close and the countless hours of free time have also ended. School children now will spend a large portion of their day in the classroom and behind a desk exercising their brains. It is important during these long school days that there is a focus on activity and good eating habits to help tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (Childhood Obesity Facts, 2014), 17 percent of children in the United States between the ages of 2 and 17 are obese. A child's growing body is greatly impacted by obesity. Children with obesity are at risk for having high blood pressure and high cholesterol putting them at greater risk for cardiovascular disease in adulthood. They also have an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea and joint pains. In addition, obese children also have a greater risk of social and psychological problems to include low self-esteem. (Basics about Childhood Obesity, 2012).

There are many ways to tackle and prevent obesity in childhood starting with both, healthy eating and physical activity. It is recommended that children get at least one hour of physical activity a day. This can take place during recess or school gym class, but can also happen once they get home from school. Sporting activities are another great way to get exercise. If nothing else, a long family walk or bike ride is a great method to both be active and to spend some quality time with the family which often has increasingly busy schedules. When it comes to activities, try to be creative and think outside the box. One example is to sign up for a walk/run fundraiser which will allow for activity and also benefit a good cause.

With the growing popularity of video games and computers in our culture, getting out and exercising has become difficult for the young children and adolescents. It is recommended that parents limit their child's "screen time" to include tv, computers, tablets and video games to two hours a day. Limiting this time encourages them to be more physically active.

Good eating habits also have an impact on obesity. Home cooked meals and low frequency of quick and fast food meals will help. When cooking at home, using the oven or grill are healthier options than frying foods. Also ensure lean meats, such as chicken, turkey or fish, are used as often as possible to eliminate some higher cholesterol and fatty meats such as pork and beef. Find ways to incorporate five servings of fruits and vegetables into the families' diet will help decrease obesity in the family.

Childhood obesity can be a thing of the past if some of these simple tools are used. Remember the 5-2-1 rule; five fruits and vegetables a day, no more than two hours of screen time, and at least one hour of exercise a day will help battle the growing problem with childhood obesity in American.