There has been a lot of debate lately about why so many kids are overweight...
Is it fruit juice and soda, fast food, unhealthy school lunches, or too much time in front of a Play Station playing video games?
Most likely, it is a combination of things.
It would be nice to have someone to blame though, because that would imply that there is something easy to fix or change that could tackle this big problem.
If you really want to narrow the reason for the rise in obesity to only one thing, it would have to be calories. Kids are either eating and drinking too many calories, which are converted to fat, aren't active enough to burn excess calories, or are doing a combination of both of these things.
Remember that you gain weight if your body has more calories going in (the stuff you eat and drink) than are going out (calories burned by daily activity and extra exercise and physical activity).
Too Many Calories In
In addition to oversized portions, many kids get extra calories by eating extra meals.
Consider an overweight seven year old I recently talked to, who would have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as an after school snack and a bowl of cereal at bedtime. If you added in the 2-3 glasses of fruit drinks and soda he was drinking each day, that easily translated into an extra 600 or 700 calories each day and helps explain why he gained about 35 pounds in the past year and now weighs as much as the average 14 year old!
Switching to a more reasonable afterschool snack, eliminating the bedtime snack, and choosing healthier drinks, like low fat milk, water, or diet drinks, would help this child quickly get to a good first goal of not gaining any more weight.
Not Enough Calories Out
The other big problem is that most kids aren't active enough.
Remember that the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that children and adolescents should 'engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.'
In addition to encouraging more 'free play' afterschool and on weekends, you can help your kids get more active by getting them involved in sports at an early age. This might include a team sport, like baseball or soccer, individual sports, or other activities, like gymnastics or a dance class.
An Obesity Evaluation
If you aren't sure why your child is overweight or what you can do about it, be sure to schedule an appointment with your Pediatrician to talk about it.
The new food pyramid assessment tools can also help you evaluate your child's diet and level of physical activity.