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Give infants and toddlers a good start

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By Maryellen Garrison

Recent findings indicate that even infants and toddlers are now at risk for becoming obese. Current national figures for infants and toddlers show that one in 10 is overweight, and more than 20 percent of children between the ages 2 and 5 are already overweight or obese.

Early obesity can lead to adult overweight or obesity and the chronic diseases that stem from weight management issues. Reversing this alarming trend is critical for parents or care-givers to ensure health for children as they grow up. Recommendations include the following:

• Be a role model by eating and enjoying healthful foods

• Offer nutrient-dense foods

• Limit or avoid sugary drinks, including soda and juice

• Reduce fast food meals; choose healthy options instead

• Provide milk and water with meals and/or in between

• Eat home-cooked meals so that calories and ingredients are better controlled

• Serve healthful snacks such as fruits, raw vegetables and nuts

• Allow occasional treats

• Serve small portions; learn the serving size of different foods

• Follow a schedule for meals

Active play, at any age, along with diet, is important to well-being and overall health. Even infants need time for free floor play with appropriate supervision to stimulate their movements, develop coordination and strengthen muscles. Every day, caregivers should encourage toddlers to be active so they develop good habits of playing and exercising that will carry over as they grow older. Children also must get enough sleep; lack of sleep is a risk factor for obesity. Caregivers and parents should limit screen time and instead encourage activity.

And caregivers should remember that diets are not the answer, particularly for children. Instead, help children establish healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle from the start.

For more information, read the UK extension publication “Home Is Where the Health Is” available online at http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/fcs7/fcs7188/fcs7188.pdf or contact the Henry Cooperative Extension Service.

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, sex, religion, disability or national origin.