Our children, for the first time in two centuries, are predicted to live shorter lives than our current generation. Up to five years shorter. Based on a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine, much of this is related to the significant rise in obesity. Obesity is not just a problem in the United States - In fact, every country in the world has seen a rise in obesity over the past ten years. Obesity can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease and depression. In adults, obesity is very difficult, sometimes impossible, to treat or reverse. Luckily, in most cases, it can be prevented and it must start with our youngest generation! As parents and caregivers, we have the power to help our children have a healthy, positive relationship with food. With all of the information available online, it’s hard to know what is accurate and how to make the right nutritional choices for your child. This article will review some basic facts about obesity and will provide ways that you can participate in paving a better way for our children.
When making food choices for your children, here are a few guidelines that can help simplify how you shop and what you prepare:
Avoid foods that are highly processed.
If there are more than five ingredients in general, put it back! If there are multiple ingredients that you cannot pronounce or don’t recognize, put it back!
If the first or second ingredient is sugar, cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, put it back!
Limit or avoid white bread, white rice and white pasta.
Look for breads that lists WHOLE grains as the first ingredient and avoid refined flour. Replace white rice with brown rice or other grains such as bulgar wheat, wheat berries or quinoa. There are many whole grain pastas available as well. Note that gluten free products are often processed and nutrient deplete, so reading labels is important.
Increase the amount of vegetables and fruit on the day.
Try to get three to five servings of ½ cup of fruit and vegetables each day – the more the merrier! Variety is encouraged!
Focus on whole foods that don’t come in a package as well as fruits and vegetables, and generally you will serve your children well.
What exactly is obesity?
Simply put, obesity refers to excess body fat. For adults, obesity is determined by Body Mass Index (BMI), which is the ratio of weight to height of an individual. The higher the ratio, the more likely the person is to have excess body fat, which increases their risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, heart problems, depression, and even joint problems. In children, one standard deviation away from the normal growth curve for their age and height is considered overweight, and two deviations away is considered obese. In adults, a BMI over 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is considered obese.
Obesity Trends in Recent Years
Trends in the past ten years have shown a rise in childhood obesity, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finding that around 12.7 million children in the U.S. alone were obese in 2014, or about 17% of children (2). This marks a 10% increase in obesity in children overall; obesity in children from lower-socioeconomic status families has increased from 5% in 2006 to 45% in 2011 (7 years ago!) (1).
Let's talk about what causes obesity, and what you can do about it!
Cause: Lifestyle of the parents is the lifestyle of the children
1) Addy, S., Engelhardt, W., & Skinner, C. (2013). Basic Facts About Low Income Children. Retrieved February 3, 2017, from
2) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults and Youth: United States, 2011–2014.
Retreived from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db219.htm