Whether you are a parent, family member, teacher or caregiver, every day you are making an impact in the lives of children around you. September brings awareness to one important topic that affects us all: childhood obesity

As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and mom-to-be, childhood obesity touches my family now more than ever. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five children in the United States are considered obese, putting them at an immediate risk for health issues like Type 2 diabetes and asthma. Children with obesity are also more likely to suffer from depression, low self-esteem and bullying.

Although the facts are scary, we can all play an important role in prevention by helping our children stay healthy!

Children can achieve a healthy weight through daily physical activity and healthy eating habits. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends children ages 6 years and older achieve at least 60 minutes of daily activity, including aerobic activities like walking or running, as well as bone and muscle strengthening activities like jumping rope or climbing on the playground. Aim to move more as a family by walking after meals or planning regular trips to the park. 

Sugary drinks and high calorie foods can increase the risk for obesity in children. The good news is that a few simple swaps can make a big difference in a child’s health. At school, encourage children to choose plain or flavored milk with lunch instead of juice or soda. Unlike other drink options, milk provides children with nine essential nutrients that their growing bodies need. Research shows that kids who drink flavored milk drink fewer soft drinks, do not consume more added sugar than average and do not weigh more than non-milk drinkers. At home, continue to offer milk with meals, but also encourage healthy snacks like string cheese and fruit or fresh veggies with a yogurt-based dip. This Greek Yogurt Dip Trio is delicious and only takes a few minutes to whip together as an after-school snack.

Southeast Dairy Association - Greek Yogurt Dip Trio

With a little planning, it’s easy to make regular physical activity and healthy eating part of our daily routines! The best way to help prevent childhood obesity is to strive to be good role models of healthy habits for our children.

Felicia Hazlegrove is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in the Nashville area with a passion for food and healthy living. She enjoys spending time with her family, cooking and staying active. On her blog, The Brave Bite, Felicia shares recipes and tips to make living healthier as simple as possible. Connect with her on social media through Facebook and Instagram.