•At least 14% of American children are overweight. This means 1 out of 7 of every child between the ages of 6 and 18 years is overweight and unhealthy. (JAMA)
•The Center for Disease Control (CDC) claims that 16% of American children are overweight. This means nearly 1 out of 6 of all of our kids has an unacceptable body mass index.
•The American Obesity Association believes that 30% of children and adolescents are overweight with 15% being obese.
A study at the University of New Mexico researched over 2,000 girls aged 9-19. They found, that even if eating habits did not change, the transition from childhood to adolescence led to a doubling in obesity if there was a pronounced decline in physical activity. Lancet, July 2005.
• Scientists say that obesity decreases life expectancy anywhere from 4 months to 5 years.
• Elevated blood pressure is 9 times higher among obese children
• obese children are 12 times more likely to have high fasting-insulin levels, a predictor for Type II diabetes. On average diabetes shortens life by 13 years.
According to the American Diabetes Association the incidence of Type II diabetes has increased many times over among children in the past 20 years.
What Can Parents Do About Childhood Obesity?
The Mayo Clinic states that poor diet, lack of exercise and genetics interact to contribute to a child’s risk of being overweight. They go on to say that parents need to be in charge of their children eating a healthy diet.
The new biology states that genetics play only a very minor role in our health. Environment is the key factor in our health. Environment includes what we eat, drink and breathe, as well as lifestyle factors such as exercise and stress. In other words, most of us can control our weight, or our kid’s weight.
Children who were breast-fed for 6 months were 20% less likely to be overweight than those who were fed formula. Obesity rates were even lower for longer periods of breast feeding. Journal of the American Medical Association, (JAMA)
Keep in mind there is a reason Americans are fat; they eat too much and exercise too little!
Strategies for Healthy Children
Rule number one is that children eat what parents allow them to eat. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but the parent plays a major role in what kind of eating habits a child develops.
Proper diet begins before the child is conceived or born. The mother’s health determines, to a great extent, the health of the infant. Moms need to eat right even before they get pregnant.
We often show children we love them by giving them the unhealthiest foods. Accomplishments, birthdays, holidays, and special occasions are celebrated with foods we know are not good for us. We give them cake and candy, but tell them that too much is not good for them. Children are bound to be confused by this message. Parents can change this behavioral habit.
Sugar is the number one enemy of ideal weight and good health.
• The worst food I can think of is soda pop. Not only does it contribute to obesity and diabetes, but it is also at the root of a new problem – childhood osteoporosis.
• A close second on the worst food list is the deep fried foods like donuts and French fries.
• White flour products should also be eliminated. These include bread, noodles and pasta. They rapidly convert to sugar in the body and cause nearly the same insulin spike as a soda or candy bar.
• Grains and potatoes should be consumed in moderation as they also rapidly convert into sugar.
• Packaged snacks like chips, fruit rollups and cookies should be eliminated.
• Juice should also be limited as it is almost pure sugar.
• Fast foods are almost always unhealthy and invite obesity and diabetes to occur.
• Pasteurized dairy is another food that has very little nutritional value.
Often people are overwhelmed when they see the list of foods that are bad for them. They often wonder, “What can I eat?” The answer starts with the realization that changing your diet can be a process. No one has to change completely overnight. The more bad things that are eliminated from the diet the better off you and your family will be. I recommend you begin by eliminating some of the worst offenders, soda pop and deep-fried foods, and cutting back on the other bad foods in your diet.
Most Americans need to eat many more raw foods. This includes vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Vegetables that grow above ground and have a green color are generally the healthiest ones. We need protein and the easiest to find source of protein is animal based products. Unfortunately, much of the animal product available to us is contaminated with growth hormones and antibiotics and has a very low omega-3 fat content. Fortunately, there are pasture-fed free-range meat products available to us. Unfortunately these products cost quite a bit more. Beans are a good source of protein. Fermented food products are incredibly good for digestive health. These include soy products such as natto, miso, and tempeh; as well as kim chee. Use olive, palm or coconut oils for cooking. Avoid margarine and shortening as these trans fatty acids are particularly bad for children. They interfere with the development of the nervous system.
We live in a world where obesity, diabetes, ADHD, autism and numerous other conditions have become epidemic. Parents have chosen to bring children into this world and they need to ask themselves what their obligation is to help those children avoid these epidemics. No one said it is easy, and it surely gets harder every year to raise a healthy child in this world. We take our obligation seriously and are here to help you make those health care decisions.