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The best thing parents can do to fight or prevent obesity in their children is to limit – and eventually eliminate – their consumption of sweet beverages. Soft drinks, energy drinks, presweetened tea, juice drinks and even juice from concentrate are on the list of drinks that can be harmful to children’s health.

The best two things for a child or youth to drink are water and low-fat milk, said Goutham Rao, vice chair for Academic Affairs for the NorthShore and University of Chicago Departments of Family Medicine, at the community forum on childhood obesity held on April 2.

Other recommendations given at the forum were increasing physical exercise, increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables and decreasing children’s “screen time.” Screen time is not merely time spent watching television; it can be time spent on a computer, playing video games or even passively listening to music on a player.

Rates of obesity have not increased since 2006, Dr. Rao told the 25-30 people who attended the forum. Childhood obesity remains a problem, he said.

The “solution” to obesity, said Dr. Rao, is in the “built environment,” in community-based practices found in schools, cities, workplaces and restaurants.

Families can be on the forefront of preventing childhood obesity. “I see the results of obesity – hypertension, diabetes and heart disease,” said Dr. Tim Sanborn, interventional cardiologist at NorthShore University Health System.

He said it is essential to educate families about the dangers of obesity. “It has to start with family,” he said. “It is a lot easier to prevent obesity than to treat it.”

Lynn Gettleman, a nurse at the Evanston Township High School clinic, said ETHS has a program called ‶ to Success†that incorporates those daily recommend-ations:

5 servings of fruits and vegetables 4 glasses of water 3 meals (none skipped) 2 fewer hours of screen time 1 hour of activity 0 sugary drinks