Childhood obesity rates falling, but not in AR

Posted by Jessi Turnure

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Childhood obesity rates are down for the first time in decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Childhood obesity decreased in Missouri, but stayed the same in Arkansas.

"The child really eats what the parent puts in front of them. That's a big thing growing up," Mandy Northcutt, with St. Bernard's Health and Wellness Institute, said.

Northcutt is a mom herself and admitted it is difficult to maintain a healthy diet.

"We have very busy lifestyles, we're constantly going. But we've gotta make sure we're feeding them those nutritional, dense foods and not just that convenience."

To do this, Northcutt said to start by minimizing junk food. 

"That's something that they should be treated with occasionally, not something that should be treated like a snack every day. They get nothing, you know, no benefits from it at all."

Instead of chips and candy bars, Northcutt suggested fruits, yogurts, cheeses, nuts, and grains. 

"You can still have a really good snack that way. Their bodies are gonna get those nutrients and be able to grow have that mental focus and just for their bodies physically when they're at rest to be able to repair and to function." 

If parents wants to put their kids on a healthier diet, Northcutt said to change it gradually.

"Don't go from one extreme to another. Because, trust me, they're gonna be like, 'no.'"

Northcutt said start with one meal and go from there.

"If you set those eating habits up early, you're gonna find that they're gonna keep them and retain them even in the teenage years, even college and adult years as well."

Northcutt said it is also vital for kids to be active for about an hour a day.

"You can have fun, get a great workout, and the kid not even realizing that they're getting that workout because they're having that fun. Have a water balloon fight, have a kickball thing. Anything to get them active and outside."

She said if cardio is difficult for a child, try strength training exercises instead.

"That sets them up for that self confidence and then they can pull from that and do other things just as well as the child next to them that maybe isn't in the obesity ranking. It's not about the way they look. They're beautiful the way they are. We just want them to be healthy and be able to physically get and do everything they need to be doing so."

Northcutt said St. Bernard's Health and Wellness Institute plans to take it a step further by launching a new program dedicated to improving kids' health.

The program will start in September on Friday nights for kids six years old and up.

"Give the parents a break so if they need to go out to eat or run errands, to drop their kids off for an hour and a half. We'll be physically active with them the hour and a half so they can get their activity in," Northcutt said. 

Northcutt said this is not final yet, but they will charge a small fee, around $5, for each session.

The program will run from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the institute.

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