There is no question that we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic and a public health crisis. As September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, we cannot let this month go without addressing this growing problem. We want to provide those of you who are parents, those who work with children, uncles and aunts, and all adults who interact with kids, with simple, practical techniques that will help the children in your life achieve and maintain best health, and set a foundation of healthy eating habits.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2017, for the first time, life expectancy at birth was lower than the previous year in the total U.S. population. The leading causes of death were heart disease and cancer. Both heart disease and many types of cancers are related to obesity. Starting healthy habits early will set your children up for not only a longer lifespan, but also a longer healthspan – the number of years they live healthy lives.

Unfortunately, the odds of setting our children up for success are against us. According to CDC, about 1 in 5 (19%) children in the United States has obesity.

Childhood obesity can be attributed to multiple factors. The most significant factorsresponsible for this rapid rise in obesity include increased portion size, snacks, increased consumption of processed foods, sugar and fats and inadequate physical activity. Other risk factors include family, psychological, socioeconomic and genetic factors. Besides causing adverse health effects, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and asthma, childhood obesity can result in social, cognitive and emotional consequences, such as lower self-esteem, mood disorders and poor academic performance.

To help parents and caregivers who are wondering, how they can promote healthy nutrition habits, my colleague, Dr. Amitha Kalaichandran and I created a video on how to convert picky eaters into healthy (and happy!) eaters and how to encourage healthy eating habits in children.

As a mom, I know how hard it can be to implement new habits. It is not an easy process, especially when our culture encourages us to have processed treats, sugar, fast food and snacks. Introduce new habits, one by one. Start with the habits you feel most comfortable with. Small interventions go a long way. For example, you may say to your children that they get to pick which of their “sometimes” treats they will have at the next birthday party they attend. For example, you may give them a choice to have a piece of cake or juice. A 12 ounce glass of orange juice contains up to 9 teaspoons of sugar, which is 36 grams of sugar. This is the same as a 12 ounce can of Coke. Let’s do a calculation: if someone has 1 glass of orange juice daily, over the course of the year, this is 3,285 teaspoons of sugar (almost 14 kg of sugar)! This is 53,394 extra calories per year! If you are wondering about missing out vitamin C in orange juice, let me assure you: the risk of this excess amount of sugar and lack of fiber far outweigh the benefit of vitamin C in orange juice. Offer an orange instead. This is just one example, but it illustrates that with each habit that we create that is not serving us, the impact over time is significant. We need to choose our habits wisely and encourage our children to do so as well!


1. Parent decides what foods and drinks to serve

2. Kids decide which of these foods to have and how much

3. Involve kids in food preparation, reading labels and understanding where their food comes from

4. Serve vegetables first, then serve the pasta (if you are not sure if your child will ever finish those veggies)

5. Encourage your kids to eat with other kids who have healthy eating habits

6. Have as many meals a week together as a family

7. Role model mindful eating (e.g., avoid eating while watching TV)

8. When you offer snacks, offer healthy ones (see our video for ideas)

9. Have meals at the same time daily

10. Encourage your children to tune into their bodies to determine if they are full

11. Avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad”. You can talk to your kids about foods that are healthier vs foods that are “sometimes foods” or “once in a while” foods.

12. Besides nutrition, be mindful about nourishing relationships, family quality time, adequate sleep and physical activities!

I promise, these tools will work if practiced consistently!

To calculate your child’s body mass index (BMI) and find out the BMI percentile, and weight status, you may go to the CDC website. I encourage all parents to speak to their child’s pediatrician if they have any concerns, or are uncertain which category their child’s weight is in.


  • Bojana Jankovic Weatherly, MD, MSc

    Board Certified Physician in Internal and Integrative Medicine

    Bojana Jankovic Weatherly, MD PLLC

    Dr. Bojana Jankovic Weatherly is an award-winning physician, double board certified in internal and integrative medicine. After completing internal medicine residency, she did a fellowship in integrative medicine trained in functional medicine, nutrition and mindfulness. Her approach is rooted in evidence-based medicine that is personalized to each individual she works with. She partners with her patients to discover and address the root causes of their conditions and develops individualized plans to support and empower each unique individual to achieve her or his health goals. As part of her mission to deliver accessible, evidence-based health and wellness information, she created her website,, that features her videos, articles and recipes.   Dr. Bojana is the recipient of several patient satisfaction awards at Cedars-Sinai and was recognized as the Southern California Top Doctors’ Rising Star in 2016 and 2017 and awarded the Top Doctor recognition in 2018 and 2019 in New York.   Prior to starting her integrative and functional medicine practice, she worked as a primary care physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Group and Crossover Health, provided executive healthcare at EHE and worked at Dr. Frank Lipman’s Eleven Eleven Wellness. She was the Co-Founder of and served as the Chief Medical Officer of WellStart Health, a digital therapeutics start up for chronic disease prevention and reversal. She currently serves as their Medical Advisor.   A lifelong learner, she completed a fellowship in Integrative Medicine established by Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona and continues to train in functional medicine at The Institute for Functional Medicine. She completed her Internal Medicine residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and West LA Veterans Affairs in Los Angeles. She completed medical school, Master of Science (Experimental medicine) and Bachelor of Science (Biophysics Honors) degrees at University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Throughout her academic career, Dr. Bojana Jankovic Weatherly performed research in endocrinology and oncology, published papers in peer-reviewed journals and presented her work at academic conferences. She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards. She has also established herself as an educator and speaker, teaching medical students and residents, and speaking on health and wellness in academic and corporate settings, podcasts, and wellness events. She has also shared her medical expertise on Today Show and Rachael Ray.   In addition to serving on the Board of EWG, she serves on the Board of Directors and has been honored for her contribution by Lifeline New York, a nonprofit organization that provides support to Serbian hospitals and children in need, and is on the Board of Tryall Fund, a non-profit organization that promotes health and education in Jamaica.   Dr. Bojana loves spending time with her two children and husband in nature, experimenting in the kitchen, doing ballet barre and practicing mindfulness and yoga. Her not guilty pleasure: Reishi mushroom coffee in the morning. Guilty pleasure: anything with chocolate.   Dr. Bojana Jankovic Weatherly practices at 245 5th Avenue, 3rd Floor, NY, NY 10016.