Recent trends of lifestyles have depicted the lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating habits and increased sedentary behaviours that have resulted in numerous health issues such as obesity. The health outcomes associated with these behaviours have not only impacted individuals and families, but societies and communities as well. Findings suggest that the health of individuals and communities go hand in hand (Hosler, 2009). Large numbers of unhealthy families have given rise to unhealthy communities in general. Healthy lifestyles amongst families and individuals inevitably result in healthier communities. Individuals do not make decisions on their own, the environment and society they reside in has a pronounced impact on their lifestyles. Therefore, societies and policies are essential. Communities need to be conducive to healthy lifestyles and eating habits to ensure the residents are healthy and active. Public policies that assist communities to create a provision for healthy habits such as eating healthy and promoting physical activities need to be implemented and adopted. Healthy communities give importance to solving public health issues that are plaguing the society. Leaders in the communities take an initiative to draft policies and encourage families to alter their lifestyles. Communities become healthier when local bodies come together with the support of governments to create awareness regarding behaviours that are harmful. These behaviours include tobacco smoking, alcohol, lack of physical exercise, sleep deprivation, sedentary behaviour, etc. These are important because an individual or family’s chances for a healthy life is closely linked to the environment in which they are born and live (Henriques, 2013).
Today’s challenges that an individual faces in terms of high costs of health care has created the need for communities and organizations both to utilize available resources. As a result, they help inhibit various health-related issues such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis and many more. Most of these diseases are caused by preventable factors such as cigarette smoking, consumption of alcohol, unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical activity. Communities who are well versed with the causes of these diseases can make changes in their environments to curb these health problems that can be fatal. Promoting or creating a provision for a way of living that lowers health risks, fosters social wellbeing and has positive impacts on the whole family is imperative. These provisions also encourage families and individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles that lead to healthy communities (Grills, Villanueva , Subica, & Douglas, 2014).
Parents can play an important role in curbing obesity and various diseases that it can cause by simply reasoning and talking to their children. It is a critical issue because talking about weight can put the child into psychological pressure. Instead, parents should engage in talking to kids about healthy eating habits and exercise and outline the importance of the same. The process of talking to kids is not a one-time stint. However, it is a continuing process. The limitations do not lie on overweight children only, but to all children. Parents have a major influence on a child’s behaviour from an early age and helping the child making healthy food and drink choices is crucial. Parents function as change agents in terms of lifestyle changes. It is important to stress on the causes and outcomes of being underweight or overweight and acknowledging the situation at hand (Puhl, Luedicke, & Heuer, 2011).
As discussed, parents play an important role in dealing with childhood obesity. There are several places where parents can go to address the problem. Firstly, parents can contact family doctors or paediatricians to help prevent or deal with weight-related issues amongst their children. Paediatricians help provide parents with the precise guidelines on how to deal with the issue. Secondly, there are various family programmes in various communities that are prudently developed by dieticians, nutritionists and other experts. These programmes provide parents with extensive training and education to combat obesity and other weight related or health related issues. Lastly, parents can work together with local communities and schools to collaborate in dealing with obesity and spreading awareness. These communities can also provide parents with the support system and educate them. Apart from addressing the obesity, parents can work together with these communities. Parents can create provisions for parks and sports centres to combat the problem through physical activities (Byrd-Bredbenner, Alleman, Hongu, & Martin-Biggers, 2014).
Parents often turn to doctors and paediatricians to address obesity-related issues or concerns about their children. It is important to take adequate steps to start the treatment of obesity from an early age. Parents need to acknowledge the existence of this condition and approach doctors who in turn provide various remedies. Weight-maintenance programmes are detailed diet and exercise regimes outlined by doctors keeping in mind the genetics and various other factors about the child. Doctors will guide parents regarding healthy and unhealthy foods and drinks that should or should not be incorporated in the daily diets. Medications can also be prescribed in extreme cases. These medications aim at preventing the absorption of fats. Another option would be weight-loss surgery in case conventional weight loss methods fail(Lenders, Gorman, Lim-Miller, Puklin, & Pratt, 2011).
The ideal weight range amongst children varies with respect to the sex, age and height of the child. A tool to measure the amount of fat present in a body is the Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a rather simplistic tool that gives an overview of the weight given the age, sex and height of the child. The amount of body fat changes as a child grows and is also variable based on the sex of the child. The ideal weight range based on a specific age, sex and height of a child are when the BMI lies between the 5th
and the 85th
percentile. This region is known as the healthy or normal weight. Below this is considered as underweight whereas values above this it is considered as being overweight or obese(Brault, Aime, Begin, Valois, & Craig, 2015).
Parents can play the part of being role models for children and can actively influence a child’s habits and lifestyle. To combat obesity and the various problems associated with it, parents need to portray themselves as role models for children. They can do so by modelling healthy eating habits and engaging in physical activities themselves. Parents can also participate in school and community programs that encourage healthy lifestyles and physical activities. Parents are family leaders and children often try to replicate their behaviours therefore parents need to focus on eating right, increasing physical activity and limit their screen time to set a standard for their children. Parents can do so by purchasing and consuming healthy food items, eating with children, encouraging children to be active and limiting screen times at home. Moreover, parents should avoid stocking up on junk food, fast food, etc. rather stock up on fruits and vegetables (Larsen, et al., 2015).
The intake of nutrition through food items results in the creation of energy in the human body. This energy needs to be channelled out effectively to maintain weight. The principle is that if energy intake is higher than the energy expended weight gain will occur because of the positive energy balance. Moreover, it is known that physical activities have positive impacts on metabolism since the body then relies on burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. Lastly, lack of muscle movement as a result of exercise and physical activities such as sports is a major cause of obesity in children. Given this argument, it is important to target a child’s pattern of physical activity. Importance is given to physical activity at childhood results in longer term implications since it becomes a part of the child’s lifestyle as he or she grows. The findings suggest that physical activity and the energy expenditure have a considerable impact on obesity and counter the occurrence of the same (Lau, Chong, Poh, & Ismail, 2013).
Balance is key to healthy eating. Parents should aim at offering kids nutritious meals or even snacks that contain a suitable amount of calories. Healthy eating habits can be developed and inculcated through the preparation of healthy favourite dishes and the limitation of calorie-rich meals or snacks. Certain changes to the list of groceries can be made to ensure this. Fruits, fruits and whole grain products are essential ingredients for healthy meals. Moreover, the inclusion of low-fat dairy or milk products is also very important. Protein is another rich diet source in the form of lean meat, chicken, fish, lentils and beans. When on a weight loss or maintenance program, it is important to ensure that serving sizes are reasonable. Fried, sugary and fast food is hazardous and must be avoided to the maximum. Lastly, water is essential to regulate and detox the body on a regular basis. The recipes for meals and snacks should include the above-mentioned items and emphasis should be given to water and fresh juices for liquid intake (Preventing Childhood Obesity: Tips for Parents and Caretakers, 2014).
Fast food is always a major attraction for children, and it is often very difficult for parents to keep their children away from fast food. There are however many options for healthier fast food and parents can make certain ingredient changes and deliver fast food that is high in nutrients and low in calories at the same time. Fast food needs to have fresh ingredients so parents should ensure the ingredients they purchase are fresh. There has been immense growth in the organic food industry, and organic variants of numerous ingredients are now readily available in the market. Adding these organic products to the shopping cart may be a little heavy on the wallet but has major positive health implications(Janssen & Hamm, 2012). Moreover, while preparing fast food, preference should be given to healthier oils over saturated or solid fats. Olive and sunflower seed oils are excellent for health. Deep frying should be avoided and grilling instead is a safer and better option. Burgers and French fries don’t have to be calorie dense and fat. Burger patties made from fresh meat and selecting whole grain breadcan do work wonders with the children. Moreover, fast food can also be served with fresh vegetable salad. French fries, on the other hand, can be baked instead of fried with a coating of olive oil. Most healthy fast food recipes for burgers, pizzas, fish and chips and fried chicken are available online and in books that incorporate healthy fats, oils and healthy cooking techniques. Other small changes such as baking instead of frying or using whole grain bread instead of the regular one can make the fast food experience both healthy and tasty(Marcus, 2013).
Conversely, when fast food is the only option, there are various techniques to limit the effects of fast food by making wise choices. Many fast food chains are revamping their menus to include choices that are low in calories, sugar and fat(Holly & Borzekowski, 2015). Even though many healthy fast food options are now coming up, individuals must be careful while dining at a fast food joint. While eating fast food, one must look for quality ingredients that are healthy such as quinoa and oats. It is imperative to calculate the caloric intake when eating at a fast food restaurant. Another important aspect of fast food is the availability of caloric beverages. These contain excess sugar and are directly linked to the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity. Replacing the regular drink with water or fresh fruit juice would be ideal. Sodium is also very hazardous to health and many burgers and fries have high sodium content. Apart from opting for safer and quality ingredient meals it is important to order an appropriate serving size. Since fast food is inexpensive, people tend to overeat and order larger portions. One way to deal with this is to order small or medium size meals. Another wise decision would be to replace the fries with vegetables(Bannan, 2014).
Weight loss, a healthy diet and overall health enhancement are the major goals for most individuals. Healthy food can, however, be expensive in certain cases. Snacks and processed foods rate higher in the price ranges as compared to fruits and vegetables. These healthy alternatives to unhealthy food are high in fiber that helps fill up the appetite as against unhealthy foods that are loaded in calories and contain little of no fiber. Various healthy food alternatives exist that are high in nutrition and low in calories (Zheng & Zhen, 2008).
There are various dietary recommendations that guide people to adopt healthier eating habits and replace unhealthy foods with healthier food choices. These healthy food choices help individuals to protect themselves against diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cancer, etc. by replacing fat and added sugar with fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These dietary guidelines do not require individuals to revamp their eating habits, however, making minor adjustments to diets can reap numerous health benefits. Some examples of the same include replacing whole wheat bread with white bread; lean beef as against regular beef, and low-fat milk instead of whole milk (Dean, Sharkley, & St. John, 2011).
While looking for alternatives for unhealthy foods it is imperative to understand the lack of nutrients in unhealthy foods and how this deficit can be overcome through healthy foods. Following are certain examples of replacements of unhealthy food items with healthier ones. Chocolates are high in magnesium and at the same time loaded with calories. Replacing regular chocolates with dark chocolate is an alternative since dark chocolate is abundant in healthy fats and nutrients. Tea and coffee are wake up drinks for many individuals and may be replaced with fresh juices or even green tea. The benefits of consuming green tea are unimaginable and have mostly been overlooked. These include weight loss, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, cholesterol, blood pressure, depression and many more (Pastore & Fratellone, 2006). Replacing green tea and water with other drinks is highly beneficial. Alcohol and drugs have also contributed heavily in deteriorating health in societies. The chemical dependency that cause cravings for alcohol and drugs is that of dopamine and serotonin. Bananas and sunflower seeds are other sources and are known to increase dopamine levels. Other alternatives for unhealthy or junk food include nuts and dried fruits instead of candy and sweets, unsweetened yogurt instead of ice cream, sweet potatoes instead of mashed potatoes and baked or grilled foods instead of fried foods. Moreover, naturally flavoured water can be a great replacement for sodas. Other examples include muffins instead of donuts, avocado instead of mayonnaise, olive oil or vinegar based dressings for salads instead of regular dressings and turkey burgers instead of hamburgers, etc. It is important to understand the cravings for unhealthy foods and opting for ideal replacements to curb or meet those cravings. Sugar or starchy foods cause insulin levels to spike, and hence sugar cravings develop. The solution is to avoid these high sugar content food items and the inclusion of high fiber and protein in diets that help control cravings (Rodriguez-Paez, 2013).
Good nutrition and healthy eating habits mostly start at grocery stores where ingredients are bought. Healthy meals can only be cooked if healthy ingredients are picked from the vast array of options available to today’s consumer. Due to this immense variety, grocery shopping can be a frightening task for individuals. It is important to keep certain factors in mind while choosing a healthy retail mix (Cannuscio, Hillier, Karpyn, & Glanz, 2014). There are several packaged foods available in supermarkets with a lengthy list of ingredients on product labels. It is important to read these product labels since the list contains sugars and chemical flavours to enhance the taste. These sugars and additives have negative impacts on health and must be avoided therefore it is important to read product labels. Products with no-cholesterol claims need to be picked after reviewing their legibility. Products such as olive oil, sunflower seed oil or corn oil are plant based oils and do not contain cholesterol. Organic products are on the rise, and it is important for shoppers to understand their benefits on health. Organic products are low on sugars and calories and are prepared from fresh and natural ingredients hence should be a must in the shopping carts. While shopping, serving sizes need to be taken into consideration as well since many product labels depict nutrients per serving size. Lastly, it is important to buy healthy products in bulk to save costs and consider purchasing from wholesale stores (Lovett, Hurtado, Bain, Sherman, & Katras, 2013). Family Involvement, Sleep and Sedentary Behaviour
Families play a pivotal role in shaping children’s behaviours and lifestyles. Families tend to shape the eating and lifestyle habits from an early age. Hence, family involvement when it comes to childhood obesity is crucial. Effective approaches towards tackling the rising issue of obesity in children are required from parents and caretakers. Interventions that are family-centred need to focus on needs of children and simultaneously creating environments that are focused towards improving children’ lifestyles and behaviors(Jones, Dixon, & Dixon, 2014). Whereas, the need to focus on families to combat childhood obesity has been recognized at various points, few programs are family-centred. Family engagement is necessary at a community and a societal level to spread awareness and education regarding obesity, its causes, and ways to deal with it. Family involvement is a known method to change lifestyles and behaviours in individuals hence the importance of family involvement can’t be undermined. Family-based behavioural obesity cures are one of the most common and effective methods used in paediatric obesity. Families can be used as a unit of measurement provided the shared environment in which they live. These environmental influences on obese children and therefore it is important to understand the dynamics and structure of the same. Families are also agents of health promotion through family meal times thatare associated with healthy weights and meals. Moreover, families function as support mechanisms for children suffering from obesity and provide the psychological and emotional stability to the child which is essential to combat obesity(Brown, Irby, Houle, & Skelton, 2015).
A decent amount of sleep at night can help maintain weight. There is rising evidence that people who sleep less at night are more prone to be obese or overweight than those who get around eight hours of sleep (Patel & Hu, 2008). Childhood sleep habits may also have longer-term effects whereby these habits are adopted and carried well into adulthood. Although an appropriateamount of sleep is not a sufficient condition to avoid obesity, it is one of the major factors. Sleep affects the body weight in many ways. Firstly, sleep deprivation can alter hormones that regulate hunger. Sleep deprivation can, therefore, lead to increased appetites amongst children. This also implies that if children sleep less, they have more time to eat and binge on snacks. Secondly, sleep deprivation has effects on the energy levels of children and can hamper physical activity that is important to address obesity. Children who do not get enough sleep at night will remain tired throughout the day and will be physically inactive. Lastly, sleep helps regulate the metabolism of an individual that is essential in weight management. The bottom line, hence, is that sleep deprivation is a solid risk factor for obesity in infants, children and adults. Although sleep in itself isn’t sufficient to address the problem of obesity, several studies have concluded that sleep deprivation does, infact, result in weight gain(Burt, Dube, Thibault, & Gruber, 2014).
Increased screen times and sedentary behaviour is also another important contributor towards obesity in children. The increasing use of information and communication technology in the form of cell phones, computers, televisions and digital games become a premise for sedentary behaviour amongst children. These lifestyle habits and behaviours have been associated with obesity. The rationale behind the link is that sedentary behaviour disrupts or hampers physical activity and hence the energy expended as compared to consumed is less which inevitably results in building of fat and weight gain. There are various ways in which sedentary behaviour increases the risk of obesity. Firstly, as stated, sedentary behaviour means that the time that could have been utilized for physical activities in terms of exercise and sports is being incorrectly allocated to digital entertainment. Secondly, sedentary behaviour causes cravings for snacks and, therefore, leads to poor and unhealthy diets such as fast food, popcorn, sodas, etc. Lastly, sedentary behaviour can be addictive, and therefore, lead to sleep deprivation (Strasburger, Jordan, & Donnerstein, 2012). The lack of sleep as already discussed has been identified as a potential risk factor towards obesity. An analysis has also shown that advertising has played an important role in influencing food choices amongst viewers. Children who engage in excessively in sedentary behaviour are exposed to television commercials for high-calorie and low-nutrientfood items which influence them to purchase these products (Medicine, 2006).
According to Forbes, the healthiest countries in the includeNorway, Sweden, Iceland Netherlands(Dusen & Ferey, 2008). This is primarily due to the importance given by these societies to health and wellbeing. The lifestyles and eating habits adopted by these countries promote healthier diets and habits. Netherlands, for example, gives importance to bicycles as a mode of transport that results in incidental physical activity. Moreover, cultures in these nations also promote active lifestyles. Infrastructure in Norway encourages outdoor activities where biking, hiking, fishing and cycling have become popular pastimes. Swedes, because of their location have access to fish which is high in protein and omega fatty acids. Moreover, the cooking methods used give importance to poaching, fermenting and smoking their food rather than using oil(Novak, 2012).
Healthiest people give importance to physical activity and a proper diet. Japan for e.g. is also ranked highly in the healthiest countries in the world with highest life expectancies and lowest incidences of heart disease and obesity. Japan is the largest consumer of fish and green tea in the world. Moreover, when the Japanese are eight percent full, they would pause for ten minutes and then decide whether to eat more on not. Iceland, on the other hand, is one of the least populated countries in the world. The clean air is not the reason it ranks so high on the healthiest countries list; the reason is that Icelanders love to hit the gym. Due to the harsh weather conditions, the citizens turn to the gym to keep their bodies warm and ensure regulation of blood (Novak, 7 Countries Home to the World's Healthiest People, 2012).
Given the recent trends in obesity levels amongst children it is important to address the issue in an appropriate manner to avoid any health implications or complications. Individuals should work in collaboration with communities, schools and governments to foster healthy lifestyles and behaviours. Policies and strategies need to be drafted that facilitate a healthy lifestyle through the provision of outdoor physical activities, healthy eating outlets and community welfare programs. It is important to understand that obesity is a preventable disease and those suffering from it can be treated if corrective measures are adopted and implemented. The prevention of obesity starts from home and parents play a crucial role. The role of parents in fighting obesity in children is central since they can play the part of change agents at home. Parents must understand that talking to children is a continuous process and requires constant refreshers. Parents need to educate children about healthy eating and encourage physical activity as a part of their daily routines. Certain lifestyle changes need to be adopted by parents and children which include increased physical activities, healthy shopping and eating habits, alternatives and replacements for fast food, family involvement, appropriate sleep and limited sedentary behaviour. As parents play the part of role models it is imperative for them to follow these basic lifestyle principles to curb the occurrence of obesity and various health hazards associated with it. Physical activity and energy expenditure have a direct link with obesity. It is important to encourage physical activity in terms of house chores or outdoor sports and exercise programs. Another aspect that goes hand in hand with physical is a healthy and regulated diet. A healthy diet would include fruits and vegetables and protein whereas exclude fast food, junk or processed foods and sugary food items. Water, green tea and fresh juices should replace coffee and sodas. Fast food is identified as a major contributor towards obesity and there are alternatives to making healthy fast food which parents should adopt for e.g. whole grain bread for burgers and baked fries instead of frying them. These healthy eating habits start from the grocery stores where one should choose products carefully. Reading product labels and their nutritional facts is crucial to make informed decisions. Products that are cholesterol free and organic should be given preference and purchases should be made in bulk to save costs where possible. In tandem with the above sleep and sedentary behaviors need to be in check to avoid obesity. Sleep deprivation can have negative effects and contribute to weight gain. A good night’s sleep of around eight hours is ideal for a healthy mind and body. Sedentary behaviour should also be limited. Family involvement at all these levels is recommended to curb or prevent childhood obesity.
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