Nutrition and exercise tips to keep toddlers from becoming overweight, obese

Posted at 8:42 PM, Sep 29, 2016

It's a toddler's dream come true. A room filled with trampolines, forts and ball pits and nothing is off limits to them.

"It's really designed to engage them and keep their attention in short spans," said Christin Schifflett, the owner of MyGym.

Schifflett owns three MyGyms in Crofton, Annapolis and Columbia. The gym is designed just for kids, from as young as six weeks old to the age of eight.

"We'll work on balance, tumbling, agility, hanging, and upper body strength. We do a lot of core development," Schifflett said.

Obesity rates for pre-schoolers have declined over the years, according to the CDC, but it's still a problem. The latest numbers from the CDC show one in every eight children under the age of five is considered obese. One in every four is considered overweight. And if a toddler is overweight or obese, they are five times more likely to deal with the weight issues as adults.

Parents we spoke to at MyGym say they worry about obesity even with their infants and toddlers. Megan Cannone has been taking her three-year-old son Charles to MyGym since he was eight months old, and now she brings her 5-month-old twins too.

"Fitness is very important in our family so we want to make sure Charles and the twins get started off super early so it will be just part of their lifestyle," Cannone said.

Samantha Parks said when she first brought her 3-year-old daughter Tabitha to MyGym, she couldn't walk. After a few sessions at the gym, she was doing more than just walking.

"It gave her the encouragement seeing other kids walking and she started running around and playing," Parks said.

The American Heart Association recommends 60 minutes of exercise for pre-schoolers a day, at least five days a week. Dr. Theresa Nguyen, a pediatrician at GBMC, said it doesn't have to be a sport.

"It can be running outside, playing tag or just going for a bike ride," Nguyen said.

Nutrition is also crucial to maintaining children's weight. Nguyen suggests staying away from sugary drinks like fruit juices and sports drinks. She said they don't burn enough calories and energy to warrant the sugar content in a sports drink.

Other nutrition tips for toddlers:

  • Drink lots of water
  • At least two servings of milk a day
  • Five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, about the size of your child's fist.
  • Avoid snacks that are crunchy and come out of a bag; pack proteins, fruit, vegetables, yogurt and nuts 

Nguyen also recommends parents take their children grocery shopping with them, cook with them and eat together as a family.

"Families who eat together have lower rates of obesity in their children," Nguyen said.