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When it comes to childhood obesity, Tennessee ranks 6th out of 50 states with 20.8% of 10-17 year olds considered obese. Vida Gallaher, a dietician, says she specializes in obesity issues at the Childhood Healthy Eating and Active Living Center.

“We’re seeing very high rates of kids coming in with cholesterol, pre-diabetes, and I feel like the numbers are going up every year,” Gallaher said.

She says eating habits are a major factor in a child’s weight and as parents prepare to send their children back to school, Gallaher says there are small changes you can make that will have an impact important. She says first try to limit sugary drinks.

“Whenever you think of apple juice or orange juice, you think of children. So every time you go to the store, you don’t think of sugar and calories and how those things are add up.”

This includes sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade. She says having protein for breakfast like eggs or Greek yogurt will help keep your child full.

“Having something like just a peanut butter sandwich, I know a lot of kids don’t have a very good appetite in the morning, but it helps them splurge more in the evening if they have regular meals all throughout the day,” Gallaher explained.

She says schools do a great job of providing nutritious meals, but if you can afford to pack your child’s lunch, be sure to include fruit.

“Simple things, like a healthy sandwich on whole grain bread, rather than white bread, limit sauces so instead of regular mayonnaise, use low-fat mayonnaise, if you have cheese sticks, make low-fat cheese or even low-fat cheese on sandwiches.”

Healthy habits start at home. Gallaher said when creating new eating habits, start small and make sure the whole family is on the same page. You never want to isolate a child for their health.

You can find resources through, the WIC program and the Chattanooga Food Bank. Gallaher said it’s also important for your child to see their primary care physician regularly to monitor their health. They can be referred to the Childhood Healthy Eating and Active Living Center if their doctor deems it necessary.