There are some things that should not be supersized! Our children are one of those things. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 17% of children and adolescents ages, 2 through 19 are obese. That means, one of every 7 preschool aged children is obese. Further, this spike percentages rose between 1998- when there was no prevalence- to the year 2000 and the present. Childhood obesity is therefore, a massive and alarmingly devastating problem for our generation. While there are programs that have been directed at decreasing these quickly rising percentages, more programs that target pregnant and new mothers, healthier lifestyle choices and school lunches are needed.
Individuals commonly learn through observation. Therefore, families- particularly mothers- are most often the teachers of their children’s behaviors. A growing body of research supports the idea that if pregnant and new mothers are targeted with information about good sources of dietary supplements, foods and choices, a deadly blow can be struck against childhood obesity. According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, “…numerous eating patterns in children are shaped by parents. Breastfeeding, for example, is linked to healthier eating patterns in children.” Research shows that breastfeeding introduces children to complex fats, varieties of foods through the mother’s milk and proteins. Whereas, baby formulas, are predominantly fats with little protein values. Therefore, some as simple as teaching pregnant mothers about not only the health benefits of breastfeeding, but also the harms of baby formulas, can really make a difference in the number of children at risk for childhood obesity. Unfortunately, breastfeeding is not for everyone. Thus, new mothers need programs that teach them which baby formulas are best for children and how to determine good feeding amounts. Regardless to the method of newborn to infant feeding options, both breastfed and formula bed babies, will benefit from parents who make good dietary choices for themselves as well.
Pediatric studies over childhood obesity have concluded that “…childhood- onset of obesity is related to cardio- metabolic (heart) disease, high blood pressure and asthma,” states, Hollar et al. What is also being uncovered are the instances of depression, suicide and eating and anxiety disorders, that are also tied to childhood obesity, Hollar et al further contends. So what is at the helm of all of these issues within the problem of childhood obesity? The answer lies in the lack of healthy lifestyle choices. As stated above, families- parents and more specifically mothers- teach children what to eat, when to eat and how to eat it. It should be clear then; good eating habits must be modeled. Parents are encouraged, by the CDC, to include green leafy vegetables, limited colored and sugary drinks, lots of water and very few fried foods and snacks, within their eating patterns; as well as their child’s. Further, the CDC recommends fast foods be neglected or, at the very least, limited to only once or twice per month. Still, eating habits are not enough to combat childhood obesity. The Mayo Clinic suggests, setting, attainable and measurable family goals- together- for healthy lifestyle choices. For examples, families can decide, individually, how they will be healthier by having children choose fruit as an afternoon snack and parents to devote 30 minutes to walking every day. Likewise, families need to encourage active lifestyles that include limited (usually 3 hours as suggested by the American Pediatric Association) television, computer and video game play, with 1.5 hours of physical activity per week. Most importantly though, The Mayo Clinic says that being flexible, committed and celebrating successes, are crucial to ending childhood obesity.
Lastly, and most troubling, childhood obesity rates are exacerbated by the endless, unhealthy choices that can be found in school lunch. According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, almost three quarters of school- aged children, eat school lunches provided by the National School Lunch Program. These same children consume about one third of their total calorie intake, from the meals eaten at schools. Unfortunately, one in every four school lunches within this program, fail to meet nutritional requirements and are far too high in fat content. The reason this is happening is because, the standards set forth by the National School Lunch program, are only mandated for foods cooked as “hot meals”. These mandates do not apply to snack bars, a la carte items like French fries, chili dogs and sugary drinks, or vending machines. Therefore, it is crucial to establish regulations against these sources of calories, if childhood obesity is to be affected. Luckily, there are models that have been successful with this type of regulation. Cullen, Watson, and Zakeri (2008), concluded a study on the Texas Public School Nutrition policy, which aimed its efforts at decreasing the amount of foods with high fat contents that can be sold in Texas Public schools. In their study, Cullen, Watson and Zakeri report that Texas was able to limit, not only the amounts of foods sold in Texas public school, but also, the portion sizes that were sold there. Further, Cullen et al states that Texas’s efforts were extremely successful, boasting 85% healthier calorie intake over a period of three years and showed that students began to prefer healthier food options all through the day, as reported on self- report analysis forms.
The data from Texas Public Schools Nutritional policy provides hope for the future of ending childhood obesity. However, there is still much work to be done. Families can lobby their state and local representatives, to push for healthier school lunch policies in their states. Doing so will increase the awareness of the school lunch problem and lead to reform in nutritional policies and practices. Likewise, parents and families need to ban to together to promote healthy lifestyles that include daily, physical activities and good varieties of food choices. Still, the process of a healthy lifestyle, begins from birth and so should programs.
Childhood obesity will not end overnight- through it seems as if it increased in prevalence overnight. Ending childhood obesity will take time, money, focus, dedication and commitment. Our chance to begin, though, is now.
“Childhood Obesity.” Assistant Secretary For Planning and Evaluation. U.S. Department of Health and
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“Childhood obesity: Make weight loss a family affair.” Childhood obesity treatment – and prevention –
begins at home. Here’s how to change unhealthy behaviors and create a healthy-weight environment for the entire family.. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, J28 June 2008. Web. 17 Apr 2010. .
“Childhood Overweight and Obesity.” Center For Disease Control and Prevention. Center for Disease
Control and Prevention, 31 March 2010. Web. 17 Apr 2010. .
Cullen, K., Watson, K., & Zakeri, I.. (2008). Improvements in Middle School Student Dietary Intake After
Implementation of the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy. American Journal of Public Health, 98(1), 111-7. Retrieved April 17, 2010, from ProQuest Health and Medical Complete. (Document ID: 1408937621).
Hollar, D., Messiah, S., Lopez-Mitnik, G., Hollar, T., Almon, M., & Agatston, A.. (2010). Effect of a Two-
Year Obesity Prevention Intervention on Percentile Changes in Body Mass Index and Academic Performance in Low-Income Elementary School Children. American Journal of Public Health, 100(4), 646-53. Retrieved April 17, 2010, from ProQuest Health and Medical Complete. (Document ID: 1990719231).