For Immediate Release
November 5, 2010

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

Helping Children Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

An Op-Ed Column by Jason Eberhart-Phillips, MD
Kansas State Health Officer

We all know how easy it is for most grown-ups to gain weight during the holiday season.

Unless we work hard to avoid it, we adults can expect to tack on a pound or two of added weight between Halloween and New Year’s Day. That’s extra bulk that most of us will be fighting to lose for most of 2011, until the next holiday season rolls around.

Now there is evidence that the same risks of holiday weight gain are true for children, especially those who are overweight already.

Mix large amounts of tempting holiday foods with more time off from school to indulge in sedentary pursuits like watching television and playing computer games, and you have a “perfect storm” for kids to put on unwanted pounds, just as adults tend to do at this time of year.

Food is an important part of holiday celebrations, and no one wants children to be deprived of the special tastes that are part of many family traditions. Visions of sugar plums and other seasonal treats have a rightful place for children in this magical season – but conscientious parents know that calorie-rich foods must be approached in moderation.

So what can a parent or caregiver do to see that their kids enjoy this year’s festive season without gaining unnecessary weight? Here are some tips:

Reducing the risk of overeating is just half of the battle. Winning the holiday weight game also requires a stepped-up commitment to helping your children burn their excess calories through physical activity. Here are some tips for parents on that score:

The holiday season is fraught with weighty risks for children growing up in today’s world. But if you plan ahead, anticipating the risks, the chances are good that you can keep your child on a healthy path without missing any of the fun the season brings.

Dr. Eberhart-Phillips is the Kansas State Health Officer and Director of Health in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. He can be reached at jeberhart-phillips@kdheks.gov. Go to his blog at: www.kdheks.gov/blogs/dr_jasons_blogs.htm.