Overweight teens: It's not just baby fat
High-fat snack foods and sedentary lifestyles may be catching up with many of our nation's youth. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 17 percent of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 are overweight. Add to that the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, and it's apparent that many of our young people have serious weight problems.
How does obesity impact health in our youth? It means that nearly one in five teens is at greater risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, conditions more common among adults over 40 years old.
In fact, the CDC reports that children ages 10 to 19 diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are typically obese. Additionally, of the 5- to 17-year-olds sampled for a major study, 70 percent considered obese had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Being overweight isn't necessarily something these teens will out-
grow. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has found that overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight adults, and that risk increases to 80 percent if both parents are overweight.
While teens need to spend more time exercising, changing their diets and eating habits is an important step to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight:
Stop skipping breakfast. While many teens would rather sleep late than eat breakfast, skipping this important meal may cause them to eat more later in the day. Eating a healthy breakfast that includes protein and carbohydrates can help teens jump start their metabolism and sustain them to lunchtime. Make sure your kitchen is stocked with nutritious foods that can fit in and survive a backpack. A choice of healthy grab-and-go foods may encourage teens to eat breakfast, even on days they're running late.
Eat fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are filled with vitamins and minerals. They're also packed with fiber, which creates a feeling of fullness and may help teens avoid tempting high-fat or sugar-filled snacks, such as chips and candy.
Watch portion sizes when dining out. Restaurant portions have increased significantly over the past two decades. Choosing smaller portions or even sharing a meal with a friend can help reduce calorie intake.
Eliminate sugary drinks. Fruit drinks, soda and energy drinks are loaded with sugar. According to the American Medical Association, consuming one 12-ounce soda each day has been associated with a 60 percent increase in the risk of obesity. Low-fat milk and water are better options.
Overweight teens don't have to be sentenced to a life of obesity. By making it a habit to eat the right foods and exercise every day, they can put themselves on the path to a healthier life.
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