6 Childhood Obesity Statistics and Facts to Inspire Healthy Habits

In 2020, there’s a major health crisis in the form of COVID-19. There’s no question that it has impacted every part of our lives.

Yet, there’s another global epidemic that’s not really discussed. That’s childhood obesity.

We’ve heard the statistics about obesity in adults. In 2017 and 2018, about 42% of adults were obese. Childhood obesity is an emerging concern among medical professionals because of the long-term consequences for kids and society.

Do you want to learn more about childhood obesity and the impacts it has? Keep reading to learn the top childhood obesity statistics and what you can do to stop this epidemic from becoming a problem for your family.

What Is the Definition of Obesity?

What defines obesity? Obesity is based on a person’s BMI, which means Body Mass Index.

The BMI is calculated by taking a person’s height and dividing it by their weight in kilograms. Generally speaking, a BMI above 30% is considered to be obese.

BMI shouldn’t be the sole measurement used when calculating obesity, though it’s a good guideline. There are other factors at play, such as muscle mass. Muscle mass weighs more, so a person with a stocky or athletic body type could be obese, even though they have a low body fat percentage.

1. How Many Children Are Obese?

About 4.8 million kids between 10 and 17 years old are obese. This accounts for 15% of the kids in the United States. This number is alarming because it’s a huge increase over the last couple of decades. 

2. Obesity Impacts Minorities

Minority children have higher obesity rates than white children. About a third of Native American children, 22% of Hispanic children, and 20% of African American children are obese.

That’s compared to only 15% of white children.

There are a number of reasons for this disparity. One is access to affordable healthy food. Others have to do with genetics and social factors.

3. Preschoolers Are Overweight

You’d think that obesity is an issue for teenagers or older children. That’s not true. Childhood obesity starts as young as 2 years old.

About 23% of kids between 2 and five years old are overweight. The difference between overweight and obese is a fine line. You want to make sure that kids are at a healthy weight.

4. Childhood Obesity Is a Global Problem

Childhood obesity isn’t a problem that occurs only in America. In 2016, roughly 340 million kids between 5 and 19 years old around the world were obese or overweight.

Obesity rates in adults and children have tripled in the last 45 years. That’s largely due to a change in diet, with the consumption of more processed foods and a decline in activity levels.

5. Kids Are Prediabetic

About 20% of kids are prediabetic. They have high blood sugar levels, but the levels don’t meet the criteria to be diabetic. 

If these kids don’t change their habits, they will be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. It used to be highly unusual for kids to be prediabetic. Now, it’s almost commonplace.

6. The Link Between Diet and Mental Health

There is a growing body of evidence that there is a link between a healthy diet and better mental health. This can translate to schoolwork as well.

Kids that eat better have more focus and do better in school. Kids that have a poor diet can suffer from anxiety and depression.

How to Curb Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity should be a major concern for everyone, not just parents. These kids are likely to grow up with preventable chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart problems.

These diseases are sure to put a strain on the healthcare system. They will also put a strain on their potential to live a better life.

They’ll already be burdened with student debt. They are likely to be saddled with high medical bills, too.

Future generations may have a lower life expectancy, rather than a longer one that previous generations have enjoyed.

The good news is that this is preventable. By steering kids towards a healthy lifestyle now, it is possible to reverse these trends and give kids the future that they deserve.

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Start the Day Off Right

One of the areas that kids and parents struggle with is breakfast. Families are crunched for time to get ready for school and get out the door on time.

That means that there’s only enough time for a quick breakfast. This can turn into a bowl of cereal or something that they can grab and take with them.

There are a few potential problems here. Cereals are often loaded with sugar. Eating quickly can interfere with digestion. Plus, kids that have processed foods for breakfast will be hungry faster.

They’re forced to sit through most of the morning hungry. That can detract from learning. They’ll then overeat a lunch because they’re so hungry.

What can parents do? Plan meals ahead of time and make them in bulk. You can make a big frittata that lasts the week. The kids can have a portion each morning and eat it before they leave.

Rolled or steel-cut oats with yogurt is another healthy and fast breakfast option.

Healthy Snack Options

It can seem like an eternity between breakfast and lunch and lunch and dinner. Kids will reach for a snack that will tie them over to the next meal.

Instead of reaching for chips or snacks that don’t have a lot of nutritional content, follow these healthy eating hacks to get them to eat better.

Improving Childhood Obesity Statistics

When you look at the childhood obesity statistics here, it can seem a bit overwhelming. Consider this an opportunity to do something differently.

It is possible for kids to be healthier, but you have to lead them. It’s up to you to learn more about the food you eat and make better choices for your entire family.

Click on the Food and Recipes tab for more healthy food ideas. 

Kenneth Bennett Atticus

Atticus Bennett: Atticus, a sports nutritionist, provides dietary advice for athletes, tips for muscle recovery, and nutrition plans to support peak performance.