Obesity Begins Early

Nearly 22 percent of Silicon Valley kids ages 2 to 5 are overweight or nearly so, reports FIRST 5 Santa Clara County. The problem begins as early as infancy, and young kids who are overweight are likely to remain so. They may even become obese by age 12.

“It’s much easier to fix when they’re 2 than when they’re 10,” says Joanne Seavey-Hultquist, FIRST 5 Santa Clara’s obesity prevention coordinator.

Feeding recommendations suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics, say parents should take responsibility for choosing and preparing a variety of healthy foods at regular meal and snack times. Children have a role, too, in choosing how much and even whether to eat. Children will eat what they need nutritionally, and parents should trust that, as long as they maintain a balanced diet over time.


What to Avoid

Parents need to be savvy about sugar. The average 4- to 5-year-old consumes 17 teaspoons of added sugar a day, while the recommended maximum is 12. 

“Sugar is hiding in a lot of foods, especially children’s foods,” Seavey-Hultquist says. “We’re all so busy as parents, but we need to read the labels. We need to be aware of the marketing tricks.”

A popular children’s yogurt, for example, has as much sugar as an adult-sized yogurt; a canned pasta targeted to kids contains a surprising 4 teaspoons of sugar. Sweet drinks are another culprit, and not only sodas, but juice as well. Two juice boxes have as much sugar as a can of soda.

“Nutritionally, you’d be much better off giving your child a piece of fruit,” or milk or water, Seavey-Hultquist says.

Parents also should read the calorie and fat data when eating out. A new state law that FIRST 5 strongly supported requires large chain restaurants to provide nutritional data. Parents may be shocked at what they read and can choose healthier options.

Other tips to keep your kids healthy and trim: 

  • Model what and how to eat.

  • Offer a variety of nutritious snacks.

  • Breastfeed your baby. Among other reasons, this allows an infant to eat until he’s full, rather than until he’s downed the full 8-ounce bottle. 

  • Limit TV time and encourage alternatives. Explore bugs and plants outdoors, organize a treasure hunt, throw a ball or take the dog for a walk.

  • For cooking ideas, check out FIRST 5 California’s recipe brochure, Yummy for Your Tummy, written with nutritionist and TV personality Chef La La. 

For more information, visit first5kids.org/parents/childrens_obesity.

– Angela Geiser


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