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Do Bigger Babies Become Fatter Adults?

Rapid Early Weight Gain May Predict Obesity

Genes Are Important continued...

Washington says genetic predisposition and environmental factors have converged to create "a perfect storm" for obesity during childhood and beyond.

The easy availability of calorie-dense foods and increasingly sedentary lifestyles top his list of environmental influences contributing to what he calls a "global obesity epidemic."

"People have their favorite issues," he says. "They may blame fast food, or television, or vending machines in school for this problem. All of these things are important, but it isn't likely that any single one of them is responsible."

Making Healthy Choices

So what can parents do to help ensure that their young children maintain a healthy weight? Plenty, the experts say.

"It is especially important for parents who have struggled with their own weight to make the right choices for their babies," Krebs says.

That means following the AAP's recommendations to breastfeed exclusively for at least your baby's first six months of life and being responsive to feeding cues so that you don't overfeed later on, she says.

Healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables should be offered instead of fat- and sugar-dense foods that have little nutritional value.

"That doesn't mean french fries, which are the most commonly consumed vegetable among children under 2," Krebs says.

Encouraging physical activity is important for babies and toddlers, just as it is for adults, Washington adds.

"You can't put them in a stroller for six hours a day," Washington says. "They need to move."

Washington also warns against using unhealthy foods to reward small children. Offering a child a sugary treat for finishing all of her vegetables sends not one, but three, bad messages.

"You are telling the child that vegetables are something they need to be rewarded for eating, that they need to eat everything regardless of whether or not they are still hungry, and that sugary desserts are good," he says.

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