From stockings stuffed with candy to dessert tables loaded with baked goods, eating healthy this time of year can be a challenge for children and adults alike.

The season of savory and sweet comfort food comes on the heels of a new report, “The State of Childhood Obesity” by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

A silver lining in the data is that obesity rates for children ages 10-17 have remained mostly steady in recent years, both locally and nationally. However, children in Wisconsin lag behind their Minnesota neighbors.

According to data from 2017-2018:

  • 9.4% of children ages 10-17 have obesity in Minnesota. That is the second lowest rate in the country behind Utah.

  • 14.2% of children in the same age group have obesity in Wisconsin, ranking 28th out of 51 states and the District of Columbia.

The report also highlights National Survey of Children’s Health data that show disparities in obesity rates related to racial, ethnic and socioeconomic factors. Black and Hispanic children have obesity at significantly higher rates than white and Asian children, and youths in households below the federal poverty level had an obesity rate well ahead of families making at least 400% of the poverty level, according to the report.

“These new data show that this challenge touches the lives of far too many children in this country, and that Black and Hispanic youth are still at greater risk than their White and Asian peers,” said Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The health philanthropy organization stated a commitment to reducing childhood obesity, including advocating for policy recommendations such as funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for state grants and rescinding recent cuts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture food stamp program.

Obesity can increase the risk for other diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer, according to a news release.

5 holiday health tips

The obesity rate for adults outpaces children: 32% in Wisconsin and 30.1% in Minnesota, according to the report.

Chelsea O’Brien, a registered dietitian with Wild River Fitness and Osceola Medical Center in western Wisconsin offers these tips for adults to avoid holiday weight gain:

  1. Skimp on dressings, gravies and condiments. If you cut back on these add-ons, you can minimize your caloric intake during each holiday meal.

  2. Drink water to eliminate salt. Eating salty foods can easily add pounds to your waistline, particularly if you do so frequently. Drinking water helps your body eliminate excess salt, allowing you to avoid unnecessary weight gain during the holiday.

  3. Take the stairs whenever possible. Elevators and escalators provide quick and easy transportation from one floor of a building to the next. However, if you take the stairs instead, you can burn between two and ten calories for each flight of twelve steps that you take.

  4. Choose either alcoholic beverages or desserts, but not both. These choices contain large amounts of empty calories.

  5. Add five minutes to your exercise routine. If you know that you are going to eat more than you usually do, why not add an extra five minutes into your exercise routine? Doing so helps to minimize any weight gain associated with holiday eating.