The YMCA of Middle Tennessee wants families to understand how families adopting healthy habits together can help reduce childhood obesity.

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and while the dangers of childhood obesity are well chronicled, many families need support changing their children’s habits with the ultimate goal of improving health. That’s why the YMCA of Middle Tennessee — a leading community-based organization dedicated to improving health—wants families to understand the dangers of childhood obesity and ways to reverse course through improved eating habits and increased physical activity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has more than tripled in children and adolescents over the past 30 years. Today, obesity affects one in six children and one in three are overweight, which poses greater risks for a number of health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and some cancers. Here in Tennessee, 38.5% of all children are considered overweight or obese, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“Make getting healthy a family affair—building a culture of health that helps families adopt healthy habits is key to reducing childhood obesity rates,” said Alley Pickren, Youth Obesity Prevention Specialist, YMCA of Middle Tennessee. “Once a family gets the proper education and support when it comes to weight-related risks, they can work together to incorporate healthy eating habits and more physical activity into their daily routines.

Additionally, if families don’t know how to get started, reaching out to your health care provider or organizations like the Y that provide support are great first steps.”

The following tips are some great ways to incorporate healthier eating habits and more physical activity and into your daily family routine:

  • Eat & Drink Healthy: Make water the drink of choice (supplemented by age-appropriate servings of low-fat milk) and make it easy for everyone to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables by offering two or three colorful options at every meal. Feel free to mix and match fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables to provide variety. Place a full pitcher of water on the table during meals, and allow children to pour their own water. Think: "Make the healthy choice, the easy choice."
  • Play Every Day/Go Outside: Kids should have at least an hour a day of unstructured play outside (when possible) and break a sweat at least three times a week by getting 20 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity. Join your children in games that get your hearts pumping and bodies moving.
  • Get Together: Eat as a family as frequently as possible. Involve kids in meal planning, preparation and clean up. In addition, adults should take a break from electronics and spend one-to-one time each day with their kids, enjoying one another’s company.
  • Reduce Recreational Screen Time: Time spent in front of a television, computer, tablet, cell phone or video games should be limited to two hours or less per day. Make a family plan to reduce screen time at home (i.e. turn off screens during meals, keep a chart, go for a walk after a meal).
  • Sleep Well: Kids and adults need to keep a regular sleep schedule; go to bed and rise from bed within 1 hour of the same time every day. Kids are growing and need 10-12 hours of healthy sleep per night and seven to eight hours for adults.

The YMCA of Middle Tennessee offers a number of programs to help combat childhood obesity in Middle Tennessee. From seasonal youth sports that focus on a positive introduction to a lifelong appreciation for being physically active, to the new Healthy Weight and Your Child program that engages entire families in education, healthy eating and physical activity to help them achieve a healthy weight and lifestyle together, the Y continues to make healthy choices a way of life.

In addition to being healthy at home, it is important to maintain healthy habits while attending out-of-school programs. To create healthy environments for all children the YMCA of Middle Tennessee adheres to Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Standards in YMCA Fun Company, our before- and after-school program at area schools. Our goal is to be the nation's healthiest childcare provider by  making the healthy choice the easy choice for your child while he or she is in our care.

To foster your child’s health, the Y strives to:

  • Provide a fruit and/or vegetable at all meals and snacks
  • Only provide low-fat milk and water as beverages
  • Set limits on screen time
  • Provide daily physical activity (outdoors when possible)
  • Adults model healthy food and beverage choices and active play
  • Provide parent/caregiver education to encourage healthy behaviors at home

Discover more tips, like how a better breakfast can impact the rest of your day and other healthy recipes, at