Parents of young kids fatter, study shows

If you've got kids, then you know just how difficult it is to keep up with them and maintain a healthy lifestyle. And a just-released study from the American Academy of Pediatrics finds parents of young children, especially mothers, are more at risk of becoming overweight than people of the same age without children.

Video: Parenthood may lead to weigh gain, poor health.

When your children are little, they frequently don't finish all of their food, so moms will sometimes finish what's left on their plates, "Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill points out.

Is that  a reason for packing on the pounds?

Absolutely, says registered dietitian Cynthia Sass. "It (the study) applied more to moms than dads. Moms are the ones who are stressed out, sleep-deprived and pressed for time. Sleep deprivation alone can up your hunger hormones, cause you eat more fatty and sweet foods and, when you're pressed for time, you reach for the quick, convenient, comfort foods, and those tend to be not the not so healthy choices."

Unfortunately, food that's more processed sticks with us longer in all the places we don't want them to stick.

What can we do about it?

"The No. 1 thing parents can do is eat healthy themselves with enthusiasm," Sass said.

You can set a good example and make things a little healthier for the entire family by making a few adjustments that are pretty easy and don't take a lot of time or effort, Sass observed, suggesting, for instance, that instead of sweets, you make fruit kebabs or have non-fat yogurt with honey and cinnamon stirred in. Instead of chocolate milk or a soda, you can make a smoothie, you can add frozen fruit or throw some chocolate chips in and even a scoop of oats to give you a serving of whole grains. You can also add peanut butter or almond butter, which will help you absorb more antioxidants from the fruit. Your kids can join in the fun when you let them press the button.

Another option is, instead of something frozen and processed, take some whole grain English muffins, put some healthy marinara sauce, a little bit of part-skim mozzarella, throw it in the toaster oven -- and you have an after-school snack.

"This is so important. Unfortunately, the statistics are pretty scary when it comes to childhood obesity. Today's generation of kids may be the first to not outlive their parents, because we're seeing diseases in kids that we normally see in adults," Sass says. "From type 2 diabetes to high blood pressure and even heart disease. In 1976, five percent of children in the U.S. qualified as obese. Today it's 20 percent, or one-in-five kids.

"Just in my lifetime, (from) five percent to 20 percent," Sass pointed out.

Also, physical activity is very important, because a lot of the moms, and it is more moms than dads, aren't getting out and exercising enough, Hill said.

Sass suggests that parents take advantage of local parks. "There's a lot of free or lost-cost activities from indoor to outdoor swimming to renting bikes, to renting roller skates. Go to your local library and rent DVDs, like dance DVDs. Instead of playing video games, do charades, or, Twister. Just to get up and get moving. That will really make a huge difference."

What about if you have a picky eater? It may be tough to change some of their habits, especially when you're tired and stressed out.

According to Sass, it helps to get your kids involved with shopping for the food and preparing it. So the more invested they are, the more interested they become in healthy eating. She suggests growing vegetables together, planting a garden or even using a window sill pot. Or you can make some tomatoes or some herbs on your own.

"You can also go to a pick-your-own farm. And prepare something together that you've picked together. And then finally, allow your child to pick out one new fruit or vegetable from the supermarket every time you go to the grocery store," she adds. "I have seen this transform kids where they get really excited about trying a mango or papaya or a dragon fruit. They really look forward to eating it and become more interested in fruits and vegetables in general."