Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic. Just look at these alarming statistics.

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. The goal of the month is to build awareness of the childhood obesity epidemic and to motivate communities, organizations, families and individuals to live healthier lives. From schools and childcare providers to organizations and individuals, all members of the community can fight childhood obesity and help the next generation of Oklahomans secure a healthier future.

In Oklahoma alone, over a third of kids ages 10-17 are overweight or obese. Plus, we have the 7th highest high school obesity rate in the nation. Why is this concerning? Because children who are obese are more likely to be obese as adults, which places them at increased risk for a variety of chronic diseases — cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and 13 types of cancer.

What’s fueling this surge in obesity?

A major contributor to the obesity problem is sugary beverages like soda, sports drinks, juice boxes and energy drinks.

Beverages like these are loaded with sugar and empty calories. One 12-oz. soda contains up to 10 packets of sugar — that’s more sugar than three glazed donuts. A 12-oz. glass of sweet tea has more sugar than 28 gummy bears. When children consume sugary drinks, eat unhealthy foods and don’t get enough physical activity, their risk of obesity skyrockets.

Help Kids Get Healthy

Encourage kids to choose water over sugary drinks, fill half their plates with fruits and veggies and be sure they get 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

For easy, effective ways kids can improve their health, try these 10 simple ideas:

1. Get involved at your child’s school.

Find out what kinds of health and wellness programs and policies your child’s school has in place. Schedule a tour of the school, attend events and speak to teachers and administrators. You could even suggest and initiate health-focused events that the school doesn’t currently observe, like Take Your Parents to P.E. Day or a Walk or Bike to School Day event.

2. Push for improved school nutrition and physical activity policies.

Familiarize yourself with your school or district’s policies around nutrition and physical activity. Do they offer athletic programs? After-school activities? If you see room for improvement, advocate for better practices. This could entail simply contacting an administrator or school board member with your concerns, or gathering a group of people who support your cause to help change the tide.

3. Create routines that foster healthy habits at home.

Prepare healthy snacks or meals that fit your schedule. Also, limit screen time to a certain number of hours per week. Keep the limits consistent and encourage your kids to find more active ways to play. Try role modeling by setting limits for yourself, too.

4. Talk to your kid’s doctor about their health.

Next time your child visits the doctor, discuss with them a plan to improve your child’s health. Their doctor can tell you a healthy weight for your child’s age and height. Plus, they’ll suggest some tips and simple lifestyle changes your child can try to achieve it.

5. Help your kid get 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

No matter how they get it, kids need 60 minutes of physical activity every day. To help them get active, pick an activity that the whole family can participate in. Try basketball one week, yoga the next week, then soccer, Frisbee, tennis, etc. By trying several different activities, you may discover a few that you never knew you’d enjoy!

6. Always choose water.

With no calories, no sugar and tons of health benefits, water is the clear choice to quench your thirst. You can make it even more refreshing by infusing it with fruits and herbs. Get infused water recipes here.

7. Try our Healthy Habits Reward Card.

Make healthy behavior fun with this engaging reward card. Print it out, hang it on your fridge and check off the boxes throughout the week.

8. During screen time, get active.

Watching TV? During commercial breaks, have contests with your kids to see who can do more push-ups or crunches. Another fun idea? Mimic an activity that is happening on screen, like dance move or a basketball shot. You can even try this at-home TV Workout. By getting active as a family, you can ensure you’re getting 30 minutes of physical activity, and you can help your kids get 60.

9. Pack a healthier lunch.

At school and at home, avoid prepackaged foods and products high in sodium (like hot dogs, potato chips and fast food). Instead, try these 17 easy recipes and tips.

10. Find creative ways to play.

By making physical activity fun, your kids are more likely to participate. Brainstorm with your kids to come up with unique games, like Football Soccer. It’s the same game as soccer, except you kick around a football instead of a soccer ball. Check out this list of creative, playfully themed activities, too.

For easy-to-make, healthy recipes — including delicious infused water recipes — and dozens of physical activity ideas for kids, visit ShapeYourFutureOK.com.

Want to advocate for better health at school and around the community? Get involved by contacting a TSET Healthy Living grantee here.