How Parents with Healthy Habits Promote Health in Children


Obesity as a whole is on the rise; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that roughly 40 percent of adult Americans are obese, as are 20 percent of children. Childhood obesity is particularly worrisome. Health risks and obesity itself tend to rise over time, and it’s a very real fear that childhood obesity can lead to serious health problems in adulthood, which go beyond simply being overweight. A new 2018 study discovered healthy habits of parents can have a strong overall effect on childhood obesity. While, of course, kids need to pick up healthy lifestyle habits themselves as they grow, children with healthy-minded parents had a much lower incidence of obesity. Read on to learn about some of these healthy habits, and how you can help keep risks of childhood obesity low for your children.

Healthy Weight

It may be of no surprise that women (and men) who maintained a healthy weight had children that were less likely to be obese. A healthy weight is considered a body mass index (BMI) that is in between 18.5 and 24.9. If you’re unsure how to calculate your own BMI, use this calculator provided by the Center for Disease Control.

There are other factors to take into consideration when calculating a medical BMI, but this number should give you a rough idea of where you are in terms of health. Depending on your age and frame size your doctor can help you determine your optimum weight.

Exercise Habits

Parents who took part in moderate exercise every week (roughly 150 minutes in a seven-day stretch), had children with less prevalence of obesity. Surprisingly, the parents’ diet had some correlation with childhood obesity, but not as strong as one would think. Parents who avoided red and processed meats and consumed fruits and vegetables offered good role modeling and many children picked up these habits. However, there was no direct correlation between the diet of the mother and childhood obesity.

Smoking and Drinking

There were strong correlations between the incidences of obesity in children and parents who smoked. In fact, children of parents that never smoked at all had a much lower risk of childhood obesity. (Parents who quit were also helping their children out as well). Scientists are unsure exactly why this is. It’s assumed that parents who smoke tend to be more depressed and anxious, traits that often lead to overeating, and then to obesity.

When it came to alcohol consumption, teetotaling was not the recommendation. In fact, children with the lowest obesity rates had parents who drank moderately. Moderate drinking is considered less than 15g per day, which roughly equates to one 5-oz. glass of wine, or one 12-oz. bottle of beer. This correlation also is not easily explained; it is thought that parents who drink moderately have lower instances of anxiety and depression, which carries over into eating habits.

The Numbers Themselves

This study, which tracked the obesity or lack thereof of nearly 25,000 children over the course of several years, found that parents who eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and have only a moderate alcohol intake lowered childhood obesity rates by up to 25 percent. In this same group, those who were non-smokers had children with lessened rates up to 40 percent. Parents with a healthy BMI, who exercised, had a healthy diet, did not smoke, and who drank moderate amounts of alcohol lessened their children’s risk of obesity by 75 percent. These rates are a bit startling, so it’s more important than ever for parents to try to promote healthy habits at home. If you need help starting to form your own healthy habits, from eating a balanced diet to quitting smoking, The Woman’s Clinic can help. With locations in both Jackson and Madison, we offer many types of women’s health care, from OB/GYN needs to weight loss, and Care At Every Life Stage. Make an appointment today to get started on the healthier you.

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