Creating a healthy lifestyle

Obesity currently is triple the rate it was just one generation ago and continues to grow as a significant health threat for all ages.

Childhood obesity is an epidemic in our country, affecting 17 percent of all children and adolescents and more than one-third of all adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While health care providers and the media continue to address the issue, obesity currently is triple the rate it was just one generation ago and continues to grow as a significant health threat for all ages.

“Providing a variety of foods with high nutritional value supports normal growth and development,” said Brooke Sweeney, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the University of Louisville School of Medicine.

Dr. Sweeney has expertise in weight loss and obesity complications and serves as director of Healthy for Life! – a multidisciplinary clinic for overweight children and their families. “Children learn to eat healthy foods by being exposed to healthy foods on a daily basis, especially fresh fruits and vegetables,” Dr. Sweeney said. Home is the one place that adults can control the foods available to children. It is much easier to make healthy food choices and prepare nutritious meals when your pantry is consistently stocked with healthy foods to eat and enjoy.

How to read food labels

  • Check the serving size and number of servings per container. A good rule of thumb is to limit portion size to the serving size suggested on the label.
  • For foods in the carbohydrate group (e.g., bread, cereal, pasta, many snack foods) make sure sugar is less than 10 grams and fiber is at least 3 grams per serving.
  • Use the daily value column to determine if a food is high or low in a particular nutrient. Five percent or less is low; 20 percent or more is high. Typically, you want sodium, cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fat to be low. Trans fat does not have a daily value because none is needed.
  • Scan the ingredient list. Typically shorter lists with recognizable words are better. Avoid anything with several types of sugar and hydrogenated oils.

Healthy tips

  • Set small, realistic goals.
  • Remove junk food from the home to reduce temptation.
  • Reduce your intake of beverages with added sugar.
  • Try new foods.
  • Follow the “Choose MyPlate” model: Fill half the plate with veggies/fruit, one-quarter with beans/meat and one-quarter with grains.
  • Emphasize the importance of a whole-family approach.

Making changes alone is difficult for everyone and impossible for a young child who does not cook or grocery shop.

Modeling healthy eating and physical activity forms the foundation of a happy, healthy life for your child.


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