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David has a weekly subscription to Time Magazine, and yesterday our July 5th issue came in the mail. As I was browsing through it, I came across a two page article written in conjunction with the American Heart Association called "The Skinny on Childhood Obesity" and then another one page article directly following called "Weighing America's Future." These two articles caught my attention and so I started reading.
Childhood obesity is becoming a national epidemic, one out of every three children is obese, ONE OUT OF EVERY THREE! In addition, the article states that 40% of obese children and 70% of obese teenagers will become obese adults. That is a pretty scary thought, especially since pediatricians are seeing more and more cases of type II diabetes and heart disease in children and adolescents than ever before, conditions that were once only diagnosed in adults!
So what is being done to help curb this problem? Well, the government is finally beginning to step in. Michelle Obama has started a national program called "Let's Move" that is focused on four goals:
- Increased nutrition information
- Increased physical activity
- Easier access to healthy foods
- Personal Responsibility
The federal government is supporting this project by giving $1 billion a year for the next ten years. Private sectors have also joined in the fight by providing guidelines and programs for pediatricians, educators, parents, and children.
This is all well and good, but I truly believe that this epidemic is not going to be over until the government starts to regulate the ingredients that are put into our foods, and until people begin taking the processed foods out of their diets and replace them with whole and natural foods.
Here are some suggestions given for making healthy changes and what I think about these ideas:
- Stock the pantry with nutritious snacks such as fresh and dried fruit, pretzels, plain popcorn, and granola cereal - This is a great idea, although vegetables need to have a place here. Carrot sticks, sliced cucumbers, sugar snap peas, sliced kohlrabi, and sliced peppers are all really great ideas for snacks. Also, be careful with things like popcorn and pretzels. Make sure that they do not contain any offensive ingredients. You can check my "yucky no no" list by clicking here. In my house, we buy popcorn kernels and pop it ourselves. Granola cereal can be ok, but you have to check to make sure that it does not contain any of the offensive ingredients.
- Instead of sugar sweetened beverages, fruit drinks, and fruit juice, switch to flavored seltzer and low fat milk - Ok, again, in principle this is a good idea, however, I can guarantee you that a drink sweetened with sugar is not what you are going to find 99.9% of the time. The sweeteners in a majority of these drinks INCLUDING flavored seltzer is going to be artificial, whether it be HFCS or Splenda (and yes, Splenda IS bad for you!) so it is best to keep your sweetened drinks in moderation. If you want juice, (which I happen to love juice), keep it in moderation, and only buy juice that says 100% fruit juice. I would say stick to drinking water and milk.
- Limit video games and TV to only two hours per day - I would say even less than that
- Sit down to healthy, regularly scheduled family dinners. What parents eat, and how much can help kids develop good eating patterns for life -YES! I agree wholeheartedly with this! I believe families should eat together, it has many, many more benefits beyond the dinner table. However, we should also take to heart the second part of this: WHAT PARENTS EAT DIRECTLY AFFECTS CHILDREN'S GOOD EATING HABITS! That means that it kind of defeats the purpose if parents are serving highly processed foods and junk foods.
- Start a Vegetable garden where children can plant greens of their choice- This is a great idea, or join your local CSA! Get your kids involved, show them the source of their food.
- Plan physical activity- focused family outings, even if it's just a walk or bike ride. Families that play together stay healthy. - Can't argue with that!
As I said earlier, we can implement all of these things and ultimately the nation WILL get healthier, but if we truly want to beat this obesity epidemic the government has got to start regulating the WAY that foods are processed. In many countries High Fructose Corn Syrup and partially hydrogenated oils are illegal. Think about the way our grandparents ate, and the generations before them. They ate foods made from whole and natural ingredients. Things like butter, sugar, meat, and whole grain breads. They were not obese. They moved more, ate smaller portions, and ATE NATURALLY! There was never any debate about whether something made in a lab was better than something that came from a natural source, because there wasn't an option for lab altered processed foods. Why can't we get back to that in this country? It would make much better sense.
Until next time, happy and HEALTHY cooking and EATING!