INDIANAPOLIS – Children and teens have seen a massive increase in weight gain during the pandemic, according to a new report from the CDC.
The report details that the body mass index, or BMI, of kids ages 2-19 nearly doubled during the pandemic. Kids who were already overweight before the pandemic experienced the largest gains.
Obesity is a big problem for kids in the United States with 1 out of every 6 kids being labeled as obese. In Indiana, recent numbers point to 16.7% of Hoosier youth ages 10 to 17 as being obese.
Health professionals say the problem was getting worse even before the pandemic.
“We’re seeing kids with high cholesterol, high triglycerides, pre-diabetic. So again, if you’re getting diagnosed with those diseases as a child, it’s really hard to correct it when you’re an adult,” IU Health registered dietician Cindy Carmack said.
While Indiana was already dealing with this problem, the lack of recreational activity, increase of screen time, and constantly being around food was only worsened by the pandemic.
As things return to normal, Carmack says it’s important to get back on track.
However, she says when it comes to kids, dealing with any weight issues is a difficult and sensitive topic to navigate. So, she says the focus shouldn’t be on losing weight, rather building healthier habits.
“That’s what I encourage, focusing on these healthy habits that are going to set them up for life. I don’t recommend putting kids on diets, don’t talk about their weight, just focus on what are those healthy habits that they can establish now and that will lead them on into adulthood,” Carmack said.
As part of getting back on track, Carmack recommends simple guidelines such as having structured meal and snack times, portion control (putting things on plate vs eating from package) introducing more recreational activities, adding 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day, and avoiding sugary beverages when possible.
For more information on how to build healthy habits with kids, you can follow these links:
www.eatright.org/kids – recipes, healthy meal and snack ideas and cooking tips and trends
www.myplate.gov – recipes, healthy eating on a budget, building a healthy plate
www.findhelp.org – this is a website where you can enter your zip code to find food assistance, help paying bills and other free or reduced programs.