Dr. Mary Jane Osmick, vice president and medical director of health services for American Specialty Health -- which provides fitness and exercise programs for health plans, insurance carriers and employer groups -- said obesity now affects 17 percent of all U.S. children and adolescents -- triple the rate from just one generation ago.
"Parents can make a big difference by helping to instill healthy behaviors in their children," Osmick said in a statement. "For example, I recently witnessed the 'power of parental influence' on children's eating habits. While standing in line at a salad bar, I overheard a father planning the meal with his three children. 'OK,' he said, 'Remember how we talked about getting lots of colors on our plates -- green, yellow and red? Now, how are you going to make that happen?' First, he chose a place where healthier eating was possible, and then, he guided his children to make healthy food choices."
Many of the risk factors that affect childhood obesity can be addressed when parents are thoughtful and take action, Osmick said.
"Parents can influence their children in factors such as healthy food choices, minimizing fast-food, increasing exercise and reducing sedentary activities, such as watching TV or playing video games."