September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and as a leading voice for youth development and healthy living, we offer ways to prevent and combat this serious health issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1 in 5 children in the United States is considered obese, putting them at a higher risk than their peers for serious health conditions, and also at an increased risk of growing into adults who are more at risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancers.

While healthy habits begin at home, families often need community support to be successful. The Y aims to make healthy living approachable, affordable and accessible. The sooner kids start developing healthy habits, the more likely they are to avoid obesity-related health problems and grow into healthy adults. The following tips are some great ways to incorporate healthier eating habits and more physical activity and into your daily family routine:

  • Eat & Drink Healthy: Make water the drink of choice and encourage everyone to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables by offering two or three colorful options at every meal. As a family choose a new fruit and veggie every week to taste together. Place a full pitcher of water on the table during meals and allow children to pour their own water. Keep full water bottles available in the car and backpacks.
  • Play Every Day/Go Outside: Children should have at least an hour a day of unstructured play outside (when possible) and break a sweat at least three times a week by getting 20 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity. Join your children in games that get your hearts pumping and bodies moving.
  • Get Together: Eat as a family as frequently as possible. Involve kids in meal planning, preparation and clean up. In addition, adults should take a break from electronics and spend one-to-one time each day with their kids, enjoying one another’s company.
  • Reduce Recreational Screen Time: Time spent in front of a television, computer, tablet, cell phone or video games should be limited to two hours or less per day. Make a family plan to reduce screen time at home (i.e. turn off screens during meals, charge electronics/screens in the kitchen overnight, go for a walk after a meal, set a timer to remind you to power down the screen).
  • Sleep Well: Kids and adults need to keep a regular sleep schedule; unwind together in the evenings by reading a book or listening to soft music to ensure the body is preparing for sleep. Kids are growing and need 10-12 hours of healthy sleep per night and seven to eight hours for adults.
For more information on our youth programming designed to keep kids healthy click here.