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Georgia Weighs In: A Childhood Obesity Special

Obesity is a serious health concern for everyone- even children. According to the Centers for Disease Control, obese children and adolescents are at risk for health problems during their youth and as adults. Risks like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes. Obese children are more likely to become obese as adults. In Georgia, the medical costs associated with adult obesity were $2.1 billion in 2003. According to the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 18% of Georgia youth (grades 9-12) are overweight and another 14% are obese.

On September 24, 2009 Georgia Public Broadcasting reached out to parents, grandparents and caregivers about preventing and treating childhood obesity. Georgia Weighs In: A Childhood Obesity Special was a live broadcast in which host Susan Hoffman talked with experts about nutrition, exercise, genetics and the psychological issues that affect children who struggle with issues of weight.

Volunteers were available by phone or a live web chat during the broadcast. You can find an archive of the web chat below.

Keep Your Kids Happy, Healthy, and Fit

With childhood obesity increasing at staggering rates, parents and caregivers must play an active role in protecting children's health. Eating healthy foods is a key factor in maintaining their overall wellbeing. But, this has to be balanced with regular physical activity. Children who are physically active on a regular basis will reap enormous benefits.

Now that we know why children need to be active, it's time to get them up and moving. Here's how:

  1. Focus on fun. You don't have to call it "exercise," just consider it an activity. Find out which ones your child likes and encourage those.
  2. Limit TV and computer time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than "two hours of daily media exposure" for children ages two and older. When they are watching or clicking, make sure they take breaks and move around.
  3. Schedule play dates. The key word here is "play." Have your child get together with a friend and play a game of tag, race down the block or kick a ball around.
  4. Get fit as a family. Create some funny dance moves. Put up a net and shoot hoops. You could also visit a zoo, play miniature golf or enjoy other activities where a lot of ground is covered on foot.
  5. Choose fitness-oriented gifts. For your child's next birthday, consider giving him or her a jump-rope, mini-trampoline, hula-hoop — something that will encourage movement.
  6. Clean up. Chores don't have to be a bore. Sing a silly song with your child as you both wipe tables and counters. See how long both of you can hold a funny face while folding and putting away clothes. Older kids can help wash the car. On a hot day, this can turn into water play.
  7. Skip the mall. Go to the playground. Sure, most malls have kids' play areas. But, when the weather is nice, enjoy a local park or playground instead. Fresh air always does a body good; especially a little one.
  8. Be a model of fitness. It's much easier to motivate kids to be active, if you lead an active lifestyle. Whether you follow a structured fitness program or are lucky to get in some morning stretches, let them see you moving. It will likely inspire them to do the same.
  9. Encourage walking or biking whenever feasible. This is easy to accomplish if you live near stores, libraries or other places you visit regularly. If you live in a remote area, establish a safe route to tour on bike or on foot with your child.
  10. Be a fitness advocate at your child's school. Do you know how much physical activity your child gets at school? Now's the time to find out. If you don't like the answer, gather support from other parents to enforce positive changes.

Eating Habits Begin at Home

Set an example for them —eat smart and get active! Help your children manage their weight by both modeling healthy eating patterns and by providing steady guidance on food portions. When is enough actually too much? These guidelines can help:

Use MyPyramid Plan at to make smart food choices from every food group and find the right balance between food and exercise.

You will find a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Nutrition Facts label on most packaged foods. Read the label to understand how many calories and how much fat, carbohydrate, sodium and other nutrients are in one serving. preventing childhood obesity.

A portion. A serving. Is there a difference?

A portion is the amount of food you choose to eat. A serving is a standard amount set by the U.S. government — or sometimes by recipes, cookbooks and diets.
How big are my portions?

The portion size your children eat may be three times the standard serving! See the “servings per container” line on the packaging label to find out how many servings are inside. Here’s a way to start recognizing standard serving sizes: For one week, use measuring cups and spoons when cooking, and compare them to standard serving sizes on the Nutrition Facts label. Put the measured food on a plate before you start eating. It will help you compare a standard serving to the portion you typically eat.
Control the portions at home

These ideas can help your children control the portions they eat:

* Put a standard serving on a plate and eat it from there — not from the box or bag.
* Don’t have your family eat food in front of the TV or during other activity. Provide an atmosphere at mealtime where children can take the time to pay attention to their food, while participating in family discussions.
* Encourage the following eating habits:
o Eat slowly so your brain can get the message that your stomach is full.
o Eat seconds on vegetables and salads instead of higher-fat foods or desserts.
o Eat three sensible meals a day. Don’t skip meals — it can lead to larger portions at your next meal or snack.
o For treats like chips and ice cream, eat one serving.

Control the portions when eating out

Research shows what we already assumed — the more you eat out, the more body fat you have. When your family eats away from home, use these tips to control your child’s portions:

* Share meals, order half portions or order an appetizer as a main meal.
* Encourage your child to stop eating when they begin to feel full.
* Don’t let “supersized” beverages or soft drinks lead to "supersized" children. Order a small size instead.
* Traveling? Take along nutritious foods and snacks that won’t spoil. Here are some suggestions: fresh fruit, small cans of fruit, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, whole grain crackers, carrot sticks, air-popped popcorn and bottled water.
* Choose restaurants that serve salads, or choose the smaller burger with lettuce and tomato. Choose water or low-fat milk instead of a soft drink.

More food for less money: Is it really a good value?

Have you noticed that it costs just a few cents more to get a larger serving of fries or a soft drink? Those larger portions may seem like a good value. But you’ll end up with more food — and more calories —than you need. Before you buy your child that next "value combo," make sure you are putting equal value on your child’s health.