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Keeping tabs on kids helps them keep healthy weight

Parental involvement makes positive difference in curbing childhood obesity

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One in 5 American children is obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Now, a study looks to see how parental involvement in a child's life may impact their weight.

The study looked at 4,088 seventh-graders. Researchers looked at general parental monitoring, which includes keeping tabs on children's spending, their friends and their whereabouts.

They saw that the relationship between the general monitoring by parents and various weight-related behaviors, like healthy dietary intake, increased physical activity, and decreased screen time, and they learned the children who had more parental monitoring were those who had healthier weights, said Kasey Goodpaster, Ph.D., who did not take part in the study. 

Goodpaster said the interesting part about the research was that parents didn't have to talk about food or weight behaviors to have this positive effect. Simply keeping the lines of communication open between parent and child reflected positive weight-related behavior for these children.

She said the results show how important it is for parents to provide an environment for their children that fosters communication.

Parents should know that providing the nurturing environment is the most important thing that they can do, said Goodpaster. She said being involved in their children's lives, communicating and spending time with them seems to make a big difference. 

Goodpaster recommends parents talk openly with their children about making healthy choices and not focus on statements about weight. 

She said it's also best for parents to model a healthy relationship with food, health and overall well-being.

"Make healthy eating and activity just part of the fabric of family life," said Goodpaster. "Be a good role model for healthy eating habits - eat family meals together, turn off the TV and introduce children to a variety of foods from a young age."