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Kids need snack guidance
It probably won't surprise you that kids between 3 and 16 tend to prefer sweet and fatty foods, and parents know that smaller children often prefer familiar foods that they like and are resistant to new foods. That said, left to their own devices children usually will eat about the number of calories they require.

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Affect More than Kids' Weight
You're probably well aware that drinking sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas or sweetened fruit juices can lead to overweight or obesity through the additional calories they contain. And you're probably also well aware that those who are overweight or obese are at an increased risk of health problems ranging from diabetes to heart disease to cancer.

Serve more, eat more age-appropriate serving size of the entree portion of a meal along with larger portions of vegetables and fruits would help kids eat more of the vegetables and fruit.


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Obesity Levels Still Increasing

Previous studies have shown that between 1980 and 2002, obesity and overweight levels doubled in adults and tripled in children 6 to 19. Researchers from the CDC utilized data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to assess whether the observed trend of increasing obesity levels in the United States was continuing (JAMA 2006;295(13):1549-1555).

The NHANES sampled 4,240 males (adults and children) and 4,149 females (adults and children), assessing height and weight and calculating Body Mass Index (BMI). Study participants stated their race/ethnicity. For children and adolescents, overweight was defined as at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific BMI for age growth charts, while obesity for adults was defined as a BMI greater than 30. A BMI over 40 was defined as extreme obesity.

The results: The levels of overweight among children and adolescents increased significantly between 1999 and 2004: from 13.9 percent of children of all ethnic groups to 17.1 percent. That’s almost one in five children! White children’s levels of overweight increased the most—from 25.1 percent to 33.5 percent. For adults, 64.5 percent of adults were overweight in 1999, while in 2004 that percentage increased to 66.3. In 1999, 30.5 percent of all adults were clinically obese, while in 2004, 32.2 percent of all adults were obese. Mexican Americans had the highest levels of overweight in 2004: 75.8 percent; Blacks had the highest level of extreme obesity in 2004, at 10.5 percent.

What this means for you

Young and old, Americans are getting fatter and fatter, but the trend doesn’t have to continue. Make healthy choices in your family’s diet and get some exercise—-with your kids!

First posted: April 26, 2006