In the United States, about 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years are obese, a number that has been increasing since the 1970s, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 24 percent of U.S. children aged 2 to 5 are overweight, meaning they have a BMI in the 85th percentile or above for their height and age. That number rises to 33 percent among children aged 6 to 11, according to the CDC.
After the healthy lifestyle sessions, parents said they felt more comfortable saying "no" to their children's demands, setting limits on the type of food the children could eat, limiting the amount of time they spent watching TV or playing video games, and establishing consequences for breaking the rules.
Parents assessed their own current eating patterns and set their own goals for change, such as limiting TV to no more than two hours a day, doing more active family activities and making small dietary changes that can go a long way, such as eating more fruit and vegetables, using reduced-fat dairy products and drinking fewer sweetened beverages such as sodas.
Kathy Kolasa, a professor of nutrition services and patient education at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., said she does not believe children have to be excluded from obesity prevention programs because of the risk of stigmatizing them.
But making sure parents know about nutrition, portion size and how to make sure their children are getting enough physical activity is critical.
"In my experience, there are plenty of parents who tell me they know what to feed their kids and that they are eating healthy," Kolasa said. "When we analyze their diet, they are surprised that they are not following or providing age-appropriate portions and healthy foods for their kids."
As for the parents included in the study, their weight did not
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