Twenty percent of children ages 6 to 11 in the United States are overweight or obese, mainly due to poor nutrition and lack of exercise.
A growing problem in the USA and Europe is overweight and obese children. The condition affects their health, happiness, and self-esteem. Parents need to self-educate and promote healthy nutrition for the whole family. Diets are short-term; making an eating lifestyle change is the best bet. The two healthiest ways of eating are the Mediterranean and vegetarian "diets" that stress lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Energy-Dense Food Adds Unhealthy Weight on Kids
A British study appearing in the issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found a connection – in young children who eat energy-dense food – with obesity as they mature. Energy-dense means food that has lots of calories and unhealthy amounts of sugar and saturated fat. The 1203 kids in the study were initially ages 5 or 7 and retested at age 9. After two or four years, the children following the energy-dense food pattern increased their fat mass.
Energy-dense food also lacks healthy fiber and important vitamins and minerals. It includes fast food such as burgers, fries, and milkshakes and processed, store-bought food like sugary cereals, cookies, and donuts. Healthier, low-energy-dense food is not only low calorie but contains many nutrients and significant water. The biggest stars are most fruits and vegetables. Eating low-energy-dense food with its smaller amount of calories actually allows for eating more volume yet still keep focused on losing weight.
Kids Enjoy Low-Energy-Dense Snacks
At-home healthy eating does not have to be hard and time-consuming. Great examples of choices for lunches or snacks loaded with fiber and nutrients are unpeeled apples, grapes, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, low-fat cottage cheese, peanut butter on one slice of 100% whole wheat bread folded around romaine, a small handful of nuts, and canned, low-sodium baked beans.
Two Surveys Report Fast Food Lacks Nutrients for Kids
The Center for Science in the Public Interest conducted a USA survey of kids' menus at 13 restaurant chains. They found that 93% of menu items were too high in calories, 86% too high in sodium, and 45% too high in saturated fat. They did note a few acceptable menu choices like Subway's turkey mini-sub with a juice box and apple slices; Arby's junior roast beef sandwich with a fruit cup and fruit juice; and Chili's grilled chicken sandwich with apple juice and mandarin oranges.
A Houston, Texas study appearing in the issue of the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that only 3% of kids' fast food meals were nutritious enough to meet all the guidelines of the National School Lunch Program. The measured standards included amounts of saturated fat, salt, added sugar, calories, fiber, and vitamins.
Kids Should Shun Sodas
Childhood obesity expert David Ludwig, M.D., has found through his research that soft drink consumption by kids also fuels the overweight/obesity problem. His OWL Program (Children's Optimal Weight for Life) stresses a multi-education approach to weight loss and specializes in treating children's type 2 diabetes, an illness – primarily brought on by obesity and lack of exercise – that was confined to adults years ago. His New England program treats 500 new patients a year.
Children Need Nutrition Guidance
Parents have an important responsibly to monitor what kids eat. Research shows that even young children who consume energy-dense food with its many calories, too-low fiber, and high saturated fat establish an overweight-eating pattern that can lead to obesity. In addition, fast food, sodas, and inactivity contribute to the increasing obesity epidemic in kids.