By the time kids learn about good nutrition in grade school, the pattern of behavior that led to obesity has been well established and is difficult to correct. Although change is always possible, prevention is best.

A couple of new studies show that obesity often starts at an early age. In fact, it may start in the womb.

Pregnant women who are overweight or obese, as well as those who have gestational diabetes, have a one in six chance of having a baby with a higher-than-average birth weight, according to the journal Diabetes Care.

Furthermore, babies born to these moms appear to have changes in their metabolism that cause them to have more body fat within weeks of birth. Even more disturbing, a study from the National Institutes of Health analyzed diet data for 900 pregnant women with gestational diabetes and found that those who consumed at least one artificially sweetened beverage daily were 60 percent more likely to have a baby with a higher-than-average birth weight than the moms who did not.

A study conducted by Emory University found that a child’s weight in kindergarten was a strong indicator of obesity later in life. Overweight or obese kindergarteners were four times more likely to be obese by the eighth grade. Currently, about 12 percent of kids entering kindergarten are obese.

By the time kids learn about good nutrition in grade school, the pattern of behavior that led to obesity has been well established and is difficult to correct. Although change is always possible, prevention is best.

Are you unintentionally making your child fat? If you find yourself falling into these habits frequently, there is reason for concern.

You’ve given up on healthy eating. Maybe your child is a picky eater, or you have tried offering healthy meals only to be met with refusal. It is easy to fall back on a few kid favorites or to find yourself becoming a short-order cook every night at dinner. But kids need to learn to eat healthy foods from the first mouthful you feed them. Feed them the same as everyone else in the family. Keep trying new foods — it can take several tries before kids accept them.

You behave badly. Do you complain about your weight or how you look in front of the kids? Do you label foods as “bad” or “good”? Are you constantly on a diet? Do you talk badly about overweight people? All of these behaviors are reinforcing an unhealthy body image that will stick with your kids for life.

You encourage inactivity. I get it. You’re tired. It’s much easier to let the kids watch a movie or play on the computer than it is to supervise them playing outside. Do you sit on the couch for hours after dinner? The kids probably will too. Children under age 2 should not watch any screens. After the age of 2, they should not watch more than two hours daily. This includes all screens — TVs, phones, iPads, computers, etc.

You give them too many snacks. Between 1977 and 2006, the calories children consumed in snacks increased from 168 to 586. The biggest increase was in the 2- to 6-year-old group, according to the March 2010 issue of the journal Health Affairs. Cut out the constant snacking. Plan three regular meals for kids, and allow one to two snacks of 100 to 150 calories in between meals.

You give the kids food to shut them up. What’s the best way to get a baby to stop crying? Stuff a bottle in their mouth. Kids will cry when they are upset, but teach them that a cookie isn’t the fix.

You use sweets as rewards. Eat your vegetables, and you’ll get dessert. If you’re good while shopping, we’ll stop for ice cream. Sound familiar? Work to break this habit.

You enforce a clean plate. You are teaching kids to eat when they are not hungry. Many adults don’t serve their kids the correct portion sizes for their age, further encouraging them to overeat. Kids are able to self-regulate their food intake according to hunger at a pretty young age, if they are allowed to listen to their bodies.

You push your child into sports they don’t enjoy. No one likes to exercise if it means doing something they hate. Find out what activities the kids enjoy, and encourage those instead.

You don’t allow enough time for sleep. Kids who sleep less than 13 hours daily at age 2 are more likely to be obese, according to a study in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood. Fatigue also alters hormones that affect appetite, causing a desire to eat more.

You stock the house with the wrong foods. Kids don’t buy food. They are dependent on whatever you buy. If juice, soda, sugary cereal and snack cakes are readily available, of course that’s what they want to eat. But if you have fruit and veggies ready for snacks, they’ll eat those instead.

You are overly concerned or restrictive about their food. This might backfire on you. If you withhold food, it makes it that much more desirable. Kids will gorge on those restricted foods given the opportunity. Instead, teach your children that all foods will work in moderation. Remember that critical remarks can damage your child’s self-confidence.

Food habits learned at a very young age can be hard to change. Teach your children good habits from birth, and set them up for a lifetime of good health.