Preventing Childhood Obesity – January 2010

If your new year’s resolution is to get healthier, it may be a wise idea to include your children in this resolution!  Recent research studies site obesity rates for children ages two to five as more than doubling from 5 to 12.4 percent during the past three decades.

According to Samantha Stern, training and development director at Ebenezer Child Care Centers, “As parents, we serve as critical role models for our children.  They will eat whatever we serve them and participate in whatever leisure activities we choose for them, so it’s important that we make choices that will help them be healthy and happy.”

Stern recommends focusing on three things to help prevent childhood obesity.  They include healthy eating, being mindful of emotional eating, and increasing physical activity.

Promote Healthy Eating

Stern says that when you go the grocery store, you should focus on shopping the outer edge of the store, buying fresh fruits and vegetables versus pre-packaged foods which can be high in fat and sodium.

She says it’s important to make sure you are serving your family three balanced meals a day with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and low-fat dairy.  Snacks should also be healthy, nutritious choices such as carrot sticks or a piece of fruit.

In addition, you should avoid fast food when at all possible, drink water versus soft drinks, watch your portion sizes, and limit the number of sweets or desserts that you allow your family to indulge in.


Avoid Emotional Eating

Stern says to be careful that you aren’t trying to satisfy your children’s emotional needs through food.

“As parents, it’s easy to find ourselves rewarding children for a job well done with a bowl of ice cream, or giving sad or frustrated children a cookie to help make them feel better.  However, what we don’t realize at the time is that these types of parental behaviors can have serious long-term consequences for our children.  We don’t want our children to learn to use food to celebrate an occasion or fill a void.

“Parents need to use empathy, hugs, and compliments rather than food to make children feel better.  Ultimately this will have a much better impact on our children’s emotions and long-term well-being.”

Get Moving

Stern says that as parents, we also need to get our children off of the couch and moving.  She says that children should get a minimum of 60 minutes of daily physical activity to help burn the calories they are consuming.  This can include unstructured play at home, in a child care setting, or schools as well as structured play through team sports organized by your local recreation department or fitness centers.

“It doesn’t matter what type of physical activity your children are doing as long as they are moving,” says Stern.

She adds that it’s critical for children to learn from early on that exercise is fun and should be a part of your daily routine.

“Families should embrace physical activities as quality family time and an opportunity to have a good time together while doing something great for your bodies.”

   Ebenezer Child Care Centers is a not-for-profit, locally-based agency committed to providing early childhood programs from the heart.

The agency prides itself on being different from other child care providers in that it offers a home-like atmosphere, individualized, nurturing care, and a structured curriculum that is virtues-based for every child’s developmental stage.

Every Ebenezer Child Care Center focuses on all aspects of a child’s development:  cognitive, physical, emotional, and social.  In addition to providing quality care, the agency also offers a variety of free Family Fun Nights and other educational programming all aimed at helping parents.

The agency has locations in downtown Milwaukee, on Milwaukee’s southside, and in Greenfield, Mequon, Oak Creek, and Wauwatosa.  The agency’s main office is located at 1496 South 29th Street, Milwaukee.  For more information, please call 414-643-5070 or visit the agency’s website at