Pediatric experts warn that the path to adult obesity can begin in toddler-hood and recommend at least an hour a day of active play for 3- and 4-year-olds, along with a diet that includes five fruits and vegetables. Dr. Stephen Daniels, professor of pediatrics and environmental health at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and lead author of a statement published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, noted that toddler-hood is, "a time when dietary patterns may become more like those of adults, and also when many children develop physical activity patterns both good and bad."
According to the American Heart Association, childhood obesity has become such a public health threat that it could reverse the gains in cardiovascular disease and death made in the last 50 years.
Warning that the path to obesity can start during toddler-hood, pediatric experts say parents should make sure 3- and 4-year-olds get an hour of active play each day along with five fruits and vegetables.
"We think that may be a vulnerable period to start excess weight gain," said Dr. Stephen Daniels, professor of pediatrics and environmental health at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Daniels was the lead author of a statement published Monday in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, which devoted the issue to the topic of obesity.
Childhood obesity has become such a threat to public health that it could reverse the last half-century's gains in reducing cardiovascular disease and death, the heart association said.
Dr. Reginald Washington, a pediatric cardiologist in Denver who co-chairs the task force on obesity for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said that doctors still need to be educated about monitoring children that young for signs of obesity.
If you are in the habit of not eating large portions, if you are in the habit of being physically active, that's going to stay with you."
Toddlers should eat five fruits and vegetables a day along with fiber-rich grains and should switch from drinking full-fat dairy to 1% or fat-free dairy products after age 2, according to the heart association.
An overweight child is at increased risk for problems including diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and high cholesterol.
Terry, who home-schools her children
, has a food pyramid posted in front of the kitchen table.
"It really helped them to understand what food we need to eat and why," said Terry, whose children do not have any weight problems.
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