Pediatric Obesity Is a Precursor to Type 2 Diabetes

Getting your child involved in food preparation can assist in prevention

Childhood obesity is a very complex disease. Children, like adults, come in different shapes and sizes. They have unique genetic makeups, caloric and nutritional needs, as well taste preferences, sensitivities, and allergies.

They also may have varying access to foods, differing familial financial situations, and a wide range of caretakers. All are just some of the variables that can impact weight.

The risk for childhood obesity has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic, partly due to reduced physical activity and increased social isolation. This problem is multi-faceted because children who are obese may be at increased risk of COVID-19 infection.

Children cooking in the kitchen

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Children who are obese are also at increased risk for other health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

Finding ways to prevent and treat pediatric obesity is ongoing and complex. One way that parents can take initiative is by getting their children more involved in the kitchen. This might sound like an overwhelming task and another thing for you to do, but it can be simple and effective.

This article will discuss the risks of childhood obesity for type 2 diabetes and other conditions, as well as ways to get kids involved in food preparation.

Childhood Obesity Can Increase the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Later in Life

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children who are obese are more likely to have:

When a child’s weight puts them at increased risk of developing medical conditions, it’s important to take the initiative to make some changes to improve a child’s health.

Most children should never be placed on a weight-reduction diet. Instead, intervention strategies typically work on behavior modification for weight maintenance so that children can grow into their weight. Medical professionals can help you make positive changes to improve your child’s health.

The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states, “In addition to the positive impact on nutrient intake and patterns, family meals may also contribute positively to children’s nutrition beliefs and attitudes and have an inverse association with the onset and persistence of obesity.”

Food Impacts More Than Just Weight

Food is not just about weight. Food is an experience; it links us to a memory of a person or a place. Creating a healthy relationship with food from a young age helps children become successful eaters later in life.

Healthy eating—such as eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, dairy, and fish—has been associated with longevity and reduction in all-cause mortality.

One of the ways to increase positive emotions and increase vegetable intake, for example, is to have children assist in meal preparation.

In fact, one study demonstrated that a higher frequency of helping prepare and cook food at home was associated with higher fruit and vegetable preference, and with higher self-efficacy for selecting and eating healthy foods.

In a between-subject experiment, researchers separated kids ages 6 to 10 into two groups. In group one, children prepared a lunch meal with the assistance of a parent; in group two, the meal was prepared by the parent alone.

Researchers found that children who helped their parents cook ate significantly more vegetables (salad, specifically), and they also reported significantly increased feelings of valence (positive feeling) and dominance (feeling in control).

How to Get Kids Involved

Kids of all ages can get involved in meal shopping, planning, and preparation. Having children assist in the kitchen promotes feelings of independence and positivity, and can foster a healthy relationship with food, while also improving eating habits.

Depending on the children’s age, appropriate skills will vary. Children ages 2 to 5 may engage in simple food preparation, such as peeling basil leaves, spinning salad, and washing vegetables.

Kids ages 6 to 8 may acquire more sophisticated skills such as cracking eggs and stirring or flipping foods, and kids 8 to 10 may begin to learn how to safely use appliances.

As children get older, they can become more independent and execute recipes independently or with little supervision.

Summary

Children who are obese are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other medical conditions. Treatment and prevention of childhood obesity is complex. One simple, yet effective way to increase positive feelings while also improving nutritional intake is to get children involved in the kitchen.

A Word From Verywell

Childhood obesity has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Parents and caregivers have concerns and look for support and the best way to guide their children.

One place to start is in the kitchen and getting children involved in preparing healthy meals for the whole household. Having an extra hand can also help parents, caregivers, and loved ones bond.

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