Let’s end childhood obesity

Look at those beautiful colors

I know it can be hard getting one’s child to eat properly.  But I think it’s time that we all learn and teach about eating real food, appreciating the loveliness of growing one’s own vegetables, avoiding food in a box – whether the box is from a grocery store or Micky D’s and friends – and giving our activity level a bump up.

A friend sent me an email that pointed out some simple things that families did when we were growing up: like, eating together at the table and eating fast food as a treat.  That reminded me that when I was eight, my mom would take us to McDonald’s for a treat, oh, maybe once a month.  Because we were on a budget, I could order either (1) McDonald’s hamburger, fries and a coke or (2) McDonald’s hamburger and a milk shake.  That was the rule, and even though I might cajole and plead, I knew the outcome.  It was (1) OR (2).  And my mom was the funnest, most adventuresome mom in the world.  That was 1964.  So, sure, times have changed.  But our dietary needs have not.  As a result, we now have a world with increasing numbers of children with adult onset diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.  I find that horrific.

But the tide is changing.  There are initiatives to take this on.  Michelle Obama, for instance, has started the “Let’s Move” program to address childhood obesity. This is a very exciting initiative involving parents, schools, local governments, citizens, and corporations.

In the meantime, though, why don’t we all do something to return to eating what our bodies need to support good health and cut out some bad habits.  It’s not a mystery.  And we can’t really expect the children to eat properly if we don’t.

Here’s a few specific suggestions that you can take on one at a time (or if you’re borderline obsessive like me, all at once):

  • Set a goal.  Set a realistic fat loss goal with a specific time frame.  Something pretty short, but long enough that the children can see results.  A six- or twelve-week program is standard for fat-loss and lifestyle programs.
  • Establish a baseline.  Make sure you know where the children are when they begin.  They need it to be measurable.  Measure Body Mass Index so that you can calculate how much fat the children lose, not just weight.  If they are already overweight, they might be surprised to learn that they may gain a few pounds as they gain muscle and lose fat.
  • Involve the family.  The children deserve the support of their family, in action, not just words.  So, Mom and Dad may have to make some different choices, too.  Getting exciting, isn’t it?
  • Eliminate foods with high fructose corn syrup/read labels.  This really isn’t very hard to do if you are eating foods that are not in a jar or a box.  Oddly, once you start, you can find that this is not all that hard to do.  For those jars that you don’t want to give up, you can find, for instance, pasta sauce (which you can put over spaghetti squash instead of pasta) without sweeteners, preserves that are all fruit, peanut butters with no sugar/corn syrup, etc.  The choices are out there; just get into the habit of reading labels.
  • Eat more veggies.  This really isn’t hard.  Look at your plate.  The veggies should take up about two thirds of the plate if you eat meat.  Make sure your plate has lots of color placed on it.  And just lightly steam or saute your veggies.  Stop cooking them until they are soggy and have little nutritional value.
  • Eat more raw veggies.  Try doing dips as a way of introducing more raw beyond the salad.  Hummus or guacamole can be substituted for the high-fat or dairy-fat that we

    Food Journaling

    are accustomed to.  And eating fat free dairy might not be too healthful.

  • Keep a food journal.  It has been demonstrated that journaling brings the awareness to what we eat.  Teaching children to write their goals, and then tracking them are invaluable tools, not just for dietary projects, and not really taught anywhere.
  • Less TV, more outside.  Kids today do not have the freedom to roam that I had, but there are alternatives.  Many have fenced-in back yards.  However you do it, some mandatory outside time is in order.  For those seasons where outside is impractical, there are home exercise videos and gadgets.  And kids have exercise videos just for them.  I don’t know which are good, but maybe I’ll do some investigation into those.  Our Vitamin D levels are also lower than ever, so maybe some extra outside time will help.  Also consider Vitamin D supplementation at least until those levels are restored.
  • Eat low glycemic index foods.  There are charts available on the glycemic index of foods.  It might help when you’re starting to keep a chart with you as you shop.
  • Eat foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids.  Omega 3 essential fatty acid is linked to the lower rate of heart disease in the “Mediterranean” diet.  Did you know that flax seeds, walnuts and winter squash are good sources?  Wild salmon (avoid farmed salmon!!) is another very good source.
  • Cut out the sodas (even unsweetened).  This is a pretty specific recommendation, but sodas really are the enemy, generally speaking.  Sodas contain phosphoric acid, which not only does a number on your teeth enamel, but also requires calcium to be processed.  Because the sodas don’t contain calcium, the body borrows it from your bones, beginning with your jaw bone generally.  Further, artificial sweeteners still train your tastebuds to crave sweety-sweety things.  Which means you are still making it hard to succeed on changing your eating habits.  The health effects of artificial sweeteners are still under scrutiny.  But it’s not really under debate that aspartame strains kidney and liver function, and that sucralose may as well.

This post got longer than I intended.  But, bottom line, you and your children can do this!!!  For more information, feel free to contact me.  I think I’ll go eat a handful of walnuts.

Health and fitness forever!!

3 responses to “Let’s end childhood obesity

  1. great post, mo! glad to see you back! well, first off, since harlan, ky didn’t get fast food til the 70’s, i know you had to travel at least 2 hours for a mickey-d’s.
    a food journal is a great idea, as is involving the family. families that share meals at the table tend to be MUCH healthier!
    once folks begin to be more aware of what they eat, change comes much easier. thanks for your timely post, and GO Michele Obama!!

  2. We moved to St. Pete for one glorious year when I was in third grade. I saw my first fast food (Hardee’s, too), convenience chain store (7/11), and big box store (Consolidated or CSC). It was a great year, but I was happy to come home to Harlan.

  3. I agree about giving them Low GI Foods

    Low GI Diet

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