Childhood obesity spikes since beginning of pandemic

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 9:17 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and since the pandemic began, childhood obesity has been spiking across the country even more than in years past.

According to the American Medical Association, kids between the ages of five and 11 had a nine percent increase in obesity, with an average weight gain of five pounds during the pandemic. Overweight or obesity increased among five to 11 year old’s from 36.2% to 45.7% during the pandemic, according to the same study.

Dietitians believe this is because of staying indoors and exercising less. They also say not having access to healthier foods, as well as “distracted eating” can lead to weight gain during the pandemic.

“I think a lot of us probably spent a lot of time in front of the screens whether it was remote learning, working from home or just binging our favorite TV show. We often eat when we’re bingeing or when we are distracted, so I think there could’ve been some of that in terms of distracted eating,” registered dietitian, Amber Pankonin said.

Dietitians say one of the most important things adults can do for a child when it comes to a healthier lifestyle is leading by example, and it’s never too late for kids to have a healthier life.

Dietitians recommend choosing a fruit or vegetable at every meal, and focusing on whole grains and protein. One of the biggest recommendations is that kids shouldn’t be focused on weight, but more focused on healthy habits.

“This is a serious concern,” Pankonin said. “If we are not addressing it when children are younger, they won’t have those healthy habits as they go into adulthood. So it’s really good to take a step back and just remember that this is still a very important issue and we were making some headway before the pandemic, but now I think it’s even more of a challenge.”

Another point of emphasis for leading a healthier lifestyle was sleep. Establishing a bedtime routine and developing good sleeping habits at an early age can increase metabolism, and improve mental health.

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