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Arizona has below-average early childhood obesity rates

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
LISTEN: Arizona has below-average early childhood obesity rates

PHOENIX — More than 13 percent of young Arizona children are obese but that was below the national average, a nonprofit group said.

The State of Obesity — a partnership between the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation — ranked Arizona children 32nd in the nation for obesity.

However, that ranking only applied for children ages 2-4.

When it came to Arizona kids aged 10-17, it was a very different story. Nearly 20 percent of them were obese, the seventh-highest percentage in the nation.

Phoenix dietitian Jessie Gruner with Pinnacle Prevention said that data showed parents needs to introduce kids to healthy options at a young age.

“Making sure you’re introducing kids to a wide variety of foods – especially fruits and vegetables,” she said. “Exposing them to different flavors, different cuisines, different cultures.”

She also encouraged taking kids along on shopping trips. She said parents should have kids help pick out fruits and vegetables and talk to little ones.

“Especially for young kids, talking about the colors or textures — is there another fruit or vegetable it looks like? What does it feel like?”

Family dinners are another way to encourage kids to try new things.

“Having meals together, as a family, can really help to bring discussion about food and what role food plays in our life and our diet,” Gruner said.

The Arizona Department of Health Services also recommended that kids spend more time playing outside than they do inside watching TV.

“Kids should be encouraged to play,” Gruner said. “Exercise should be part of a fun conversation with families. And, it should be a family event.

“Getting the whole family involved – whether you’re going for a walk with the family after a meal, or you’re doing family activities – that’s really helpful, just to make sure it stays really positive.”

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

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