Tackling Childhood Obesity: Actionable Steps for a Healthier Generation

Childhood obesity is a major concern as it not only affects the current generation of kids but may also doom the next generation to an unhappy lifetime of chronic diseases. It is time for everyone to take action to halt this epidemic, or the consequences will be tragic. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), obesity now affects 17 percent or 12.5 million of all children and adolescents in the United States, which is triple the rate from just one generation ago. A significant part of this problem can be attributed to the serving and advertising of sugar drinks and less healthy foods on school campuses.

Inadequate Infrastructure

A lack of safe routes for walking or biking to school or play areas contributes to the sedentary lifestyles of many children. Half of the children in the United States do not have a park, community center, or sidewalk in their neighborhood. Only 27 states have policies directing community-scale design.

Parents and the Community Must Take Action

Parents must play an active role in helping their children control their weight. They need to prevent their children from gaining more weight, take steps to reduce their children’s current weight, and implement lasting changes in their homes and children’s lives that prevent the problem from returning. The community’s infrastructure must be improved to provide children with safe places to exercise and play. Write to your school board and local politicians to demand changes in schools and daycare centers, limiting the promotion of junk foods, improving the foods available at meals, and boosting nutrition education.

Change Starts at Home

When it comes to food shopping, leave the kids at home so they won’t pressure you to buy junk food. Instead of serving processed foods, include healthier alternatives in their meals. Replace harmful snacks with healthier choices and avoid deep-fat frying. Experiment with thermogenic (fat-burning) foods such as garlic, ginger, onion, cloves, and mustard to boost their metabolism and help them burn calories faster. Learn about the glycemic (blood sugar) index and build meals around the lowest glycemic foods.

Eliminate Sugary Drinks

Remove sugary drinks, including soft drinks and fruit juices, from the meal plan. Your children should eat their fruit rather than drink it, as juice has a high sugar concentration and no fiber. Limit dairy consumption and choose low-fat varieties.

Focus on Lifestyle Changes

Never reward or punish children with food. Allow children only limited time for watching television, using computers, or playing video games. Encourage physical playtime to maintain their overall health. Set a good example by being physically active yourself. Plan special family outings that are fun and encourage physical activity. Create schedules for your children to follow, including activities, meals, and sleep. Post a weekly meal plan and enroll children in sports classes to ensure they get enough exercise. Monitor your children’s body mass index and height/weight ratios to ensure they maintain a healthy weight.

The Impact of Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity presents several serious health concerns, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. The CDC reports in one study that 70 percent of obese children had at least one CVD risk factor, and 39 percent had two. Other complications of obesity include asthma, fatty liver disease, insulin resistance, and Type II diabetes, not to mention psycho-social issues like low self-esteem and discrimination.


Adults are the primary cause of the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States. Children learn by example, and if adults consistently eat junk food, children will too. Healthy changes must start in the homes of parents before they can be implemented in schools and communities. These grassroots changes are crucial for our children to grow into healthy adults.