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Childhood Obesity
Childhood Obesity

Featuring healthy snacks and activities, and delicious recipes.


By now you’ve heard about the epidemic of overweight and obesity in the United States, but you may not know that rates of childhood overweight and obesity are also increasing at an alarming rate. It is estimated that at least 15% of children in this country are overweight, with the problem even affecting some children under age 5.

Why the increase in overweight kids? A number of factors may be at play, including:

  • More frequent intake of highly processed and fast foods
  • Greater access to high calorie sodas and juices
  • Less physical education in school, and less overall physical activity at home
  • More “screen time” (television, video games and computers)
  • “Portion distortion” (super-sized portions have become the norm)
  • Increased advertising of unhealthy foods during children’s television programs
Research shows that the last to recognize a child as being overweight or obese is often the parent. Your child’s doctor can help determine whether she or he is at a healthy weight for their height. Doctors often use the Body Mass Index or BMI as a way to screen for overweight and obesity. Charts for BMI are widely available, but results can be difficult to interpret in children. A growing number of experts recommend measuring the ratio between waist circumference and height to help determine whether a child is overweight.

“Does it really matter that much? Won’t they slim down as they get older?” Overweight children may develop low self-esteem or negative body image, and are often teased at school. Beyond the social challenges associated with being an overweight child, the physical risks to health are real and significant. Overweight and obese children are increasingly being diagnosed with adult-type disorders like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol levels. In addition, it appears that overweight teens are likely to become overweight adults.

If your child has been diagnosed as being overweight or obese, it’s time to act! Most often the idea is not to put your child on a diet but to help maintain body weight as their height increases. As your partners in yourwellness, Harris Teeter is here to help.

The Top 5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Overweight Child

1. Focus on the entire family, not just the child – Create a supportive environment for your child. Make it a point to have the whole family sit down for healthy meals together. Create an emphasis on family fitness. With so many distractions these days, it’s important to limit individual and family television and computer time, and make time to get the entire family active by playing games together, going for a bicycle ride, or even doing a silly dance!

2. Eat well and have your child food shop with you – Gradually introduce more fruits and vegetables into meals. For fun, give your child the job of picking out a new fruit or vegetable to be eaten for dinner, and ask them to help you prepare the dish. Show your kids how to read a food label, focusing particularly on the number of servings in the container. Choose snacks wisely – foods that aren’t brought into the home aren’t eaten. And cut back on fast food with the goal of eliminating it from your family’s diet.

3. Limit high-sugar juices and cut out sodas – Many of the drinks our kids enjoy provide “empty calories,” meaning they promote weight gain while supplying few if any nutrients. Make the family’s beverage of choice water or seltzer - you can create a tasty treat by adding a little 100% fruit juice. Try to limit highly processed and refined sources of sugar found in items such as candy, cookies, cake and pudding. We know these items are popular among children and they can be enjoyed in moderation.

4. Teach your kids to eat only when they’re hungry and limit portion sizes – Many of us eat not only when we’re hungry, but also when we’re stressed, upset or simply bored. Ask your children whether they’re really hungry when they reach for a snack. They might be surprised to find they’re not hungry at all. Use smaller plates when serving meals, always letting your child know there’s more food available if they’re still hungry should they finish their plate.

5. Help your kids relax and get them to bed early – Studies show that both stress and insufficient sleep can contribute to weight gain. Be sure your children have time to laugh and play, and have a set bedtime for them so they can get at least 8-10 hours of sleep each night.

Always include your child’s doctor in any weight management program.


Snacks are an important part of every child’s day. They provide energy and help keep blood sugar stable between meals. Make sure your children’s snacks are providing much needed nutrients and not just empty calories. Try some of these healthy options:

  • Frozen grapes, blueberries or sliced bananas
  • Frozen berries blended with soymilk or low fat yogurt
  • Chopped melon and low fat cottage cheese
  • Fresh fruit salad or fruit cup
  • Fruit kabob
  • Unsweetened applesauce
  • 100% fruit juice popsicles (with no added sweeteners)
  • Chopped vegetables served with hummus, bean dip or guacamole
  • Whole wheat crackers topped with low fat cheese, almond butter, or bean dip
  • Granola with low fat yogurt
  • Granola bar – choose varieties that are low in fat, sugar and free of trans fats
  • Sliced banana and almond butter on a whole wheat English muffin
  • Bite-size whole wheat pizza
  • Raw almonds, walnuts, sesame or pumpkin seeds sprinkled over fruit
  • Baked tortilla chips topped with guacamole
  • Celery sticks with peanut butter
  • Dried raisins, cranberries, apples, dates or apricots with a small handful of raw nuts
  • Homemade yogurt popsicles
  • Carrot chips/sticks
In addition, remember these general guidelines when serving children snacks:

  • Water should be the main beverage that children drink.
  • Whole fruits and vegetables should be the basis of most snacks and are always a better choice than juice.  
  • Keep the serving size of high calorie foods (like nuts and cheese) small.
  • When serving juice, always choose 100% fruit juice and follow the American Academy of Pediatrics serving suggestions:
    • Children 1-6 years: only allow 6 oz per day of 100% fruit juice.
    • Children 7-17 years: allow 12 oz per day of 100% fruit juice.

Activities to Enjoy With Your Kids

These activities will help everyone get moving and burn calories. Remember, the goal with kids is to balance the calories they consume with the calories they burn and let them grow out of any excess weight they may be carrying. By being active with your kids you are role-modeling healthy behaviors and spending precious time together!

  • Basketball
  • Jumping Rope
  • Bike Riding
  • Playing Tag
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Long Walks or Hikes
  • Planting a Garden, and Weeding It!
  • Washing Your Family Car

Improving Your Eating Habits

Replace these foods with some healthy alternatives – you’ll save calories and add important nutrients to your diet!


Typical Summertime Splurge Replace With a Healthy Version
Juice drinks Water with a splash of 100% fruit juice
Soda, including diet drinks Seltzer (no sodium variety)
Chips Raw seeds and nuts
Sweet tea Water or unsweetened tea
Burgers and hot dogs Vegetable burgers and Vegetable dogs
French fries Baked sweet potato “fries”
Coleslaw Vegetarian baked beans
Potato salad Corn on the cob
Pasta salad Mixed green or fruit salad
Fried chicken Grilled chicken breast with BBQ sauce
“Supreme” pizza Vegetable pizza, ask for 1/2 the cheese
Ice cream Fresh berries or sherbet, sorbets
Cookies Graham crackers


Chef Phil’s recipes will help you teach kids to appreciate a wide variety of food as well as replacing junk food snacks with healthy choices.

It’s A Wrap
4 small Harris Teeter whole wheat tortillas
1 tsp light mayonnaise
1 tsp low-fat plain yogurt
¼ cup grated Farmers Market carrots or zucchini
2 tbsp grated reduced fat Harris Teeter cheese
It's a Wrap
Mix the mayonnaise and yogurt together, then spread it on the tortilla top with the grated vegetables and cheese, roll it up and that’s a wrap.

Fruit Couscous
15 oz can of Harris Teeter light peaches
1 cup H.T. Traders couscous
1 tbsp H.T. Traders extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp cinnamon
Fruit Couscous
Drain fruit reserving the liquid. Pour the juice into a measuring cup and add hot water to equal 11/4 cups.  Prepare the couscous according to the package directions, but substitute the juice and olive oil for the water.  Dice the peaches and add to the cooked couscous, place in serving bowl and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Black Bean Salad
15 ounce can of HT Naturals black beans, rinsed and drained
1 ½ cups Harris Teeter whole kernel corn
¾ cup Farmers Market green bell pepper, chopped
¾ cup Farmers Market red onion, chopped
1 cup H.T. Traders salsa
Black Bean Salad
Combine above ingredients. This can be heated and served in a tortilla.

Rice Pudding
1 cup leftover cooked rice
1 cup applesauce
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup Harris Teeter vanilla yogurt
Rice Pudding
Mix rice and applesauce together in a large bowl. Add cinnamon and yogurt. Stir well. Spoon into dishes and serve.
Berry Popsicles
1 jar pomegranate juice
2 cups plain Harris Teeter yogurt
6 (5 oz) paper cups
6 plastic spoons
Berry Popsicles
Mix the juice and yogurt together in a medium bowl. Pour the mixture into six paper cups. Insert a wooden stick for a handle. Cover and freeze until firm.
To remove a popsicle, hold the paper cup under warm tap water for a few seconds.