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By Catherine Barron

Role of parents in early childhood obesity

According to research experts Ebbling, Pawlak and Ludwig, over the last two decades childhood obesity has progressively risen in the United States, as well as across the globe. History tells us that in the past, children who looked healthy or overweight were viewed as easily surviving disease and under-nourishment. Even though definitions of body weight and obesity differ in the research community, the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity has quickly risen.

For instance, in the United States, obesity among children has increased from a 2.3 to a 3.3 ratio over 25 years. In England, a 2.0 to 2.8 ratio over 10 years. However, in the last decade, childhood obesity is equated to childhood health problems of unexpected severity by physicians and the medical community, as a whole. Obesity in children brings to the forefront widespread complicated issues that warrant society's immediate attention.

We need to pay more attention to the health issues that result from childhood obesity. But more specifically, the parents are crucial to the process of monitoring the foods and activity of their children. In fact, research has proved that the home environment and the interaction between family members have a huge impact on the health and well-being of children. Parents are the role models who set proper guidelines for their children. The children are then able to follow and imitate the good behavior of the parent.

Here are tangible ways parents can provide a healthy environment that may prevent childhood obesity in their home:

1. Eating more home-cooked meals instead of going out to a restaurant, where the food is generally high in fats and low in nutritional value. At home, the parent can control the types of foods served. Of course, using less saturated and trans fats and serving less fried foods is a plus.

2. Not allowing a television in the bedroom of the child is taking action in reducing television time and possibly increasing a chance for physical activity instead.

3. Serving more fiber-rich foods and eliminating soft drinks or at least having fewer.

4. Being innovative in food preparation by providing tasty vegetables, healthy snacks and fruits is a win-win situation for everyone in the household.

5. Parents who give social and psychological support to their children will inspire them and also set the tone for peers, classmates, teachers and caregivers to participate with the same approach.

6. Family participation in physical activity is key in promoting good habits of eating and keeping a child's weight intact. Physical activities will take children away from technological devices that require inactivity, while providing overall well-being.

Experts indicate that preventing obesity and controlling a child's weight largely depends on eating healthfully, eating less and incorporating physical activity into a daily regime. However, as simple as it may seem, it is not easy. The role of a parent is a major factor. A positive approach begins with setting guidelines for everyone in the household to follow. In order to be successful, parents will have to demonstrate consistency while modeling the behavior they expect from their children.

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