"SpongeBob SquarePants" may be one of the most-watched TV show among preschoolers, but they're viewing a lot more than just that (often during day care or when parents tune in adult shows) - around five hours of TV a day. That's a big contributor to childhood obesity (now hitting 18 percent for kids 6 to 11 in North America). So is the fact that only 16 percent of kids now walk or bike to school (in 1969, 42 percent did) and only 2.1 percent of elementary and 3.8 percent of middle schools have daily physical education classes. All this increases your child's risk of high LDL cholesterol, hypertension, respiratory ailments, orthopedic problems, depression, obesity and type 2 diabetes by the time he or she is a teenager.
But moms and dads have a lot of power to reverse that trend with a few simple steps. A new study shows that problems of obesity and diabetes start earlier than preschool - and there are five powerful ways parents can help newborns get started out right:
Postpone introducing solid food until a child is 6 months old.
Breastfeed for at least that length of time. (Breastfeeding boosts brain growth in babies.)
Once they eat solid food never dish up sodas or fast food.
Make sure your child sleeps in a room without a TV. Disrupted sleep and sleeping in a lighted room can lead to stress and overeating and trigger all kinds of physical and developmental problems.
Make sure your infant gets at least 12 hours of peaceful sleep a day.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate.