In the current age of partisan politics that grips our country, one issue that all Americans can agree on is the need to end the obesity epidemic that plagues our children.
A child is obese when they have too much body fat compared to their overall height and weight. While genetics and physical activity contribute to obesity, one of its main causes is poor eating habits.
The NYU Child Study Center reports that childhood obesity causes high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease in adulthood. Children who are obese are also being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in growing numbers. Childhood obesity also causes low-self esteem and often leads to social discrimination.
This is a particularly frustrating phenomenon because it is completely preventable! Children only eat what they are provided with. They do not earn their own salaries or do their own grocery shopping! What they eat is up to their parents.
Parents across America are supplying their children with junk food and demonstrating unhealthy eating habits. The CDC reports that only 26% of adults have at least three servings of vegetables each day. According to the NYU Child Study Center, children with one obese parent have a 50% chance of being obese. Children with two obese parents have an 80% chance of obesity. This is a disease parents inflict upon their children by choice.
One positive step parents can take is to make sure that their kids are eating a healthy and balanced diet, full of fruits and vegetables. Kids tend to naturally enjoy the sweet taste of fruit, while getting them to eat their vegetables can be a challenge.
Kids whose parents model healthy eating habits are more likely to adopt those same habits. In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, George Ball of the Altee Burpee Seed Company points out that, apart from breast milk, the taste for all food is acquired. Eating a variety of vegetables in front of children encourages them to eat those vegetables as well.
Children will develop a taste for vegetables that they are actually familiar with. Don’t worry if they reject a vegetable the first or second time it is offered, keep trying!
Ball recommends that parents plant starter gardens with their children as a way to interest them in eating more vegetables. Parents can also give their kids ownership of what they eat by encouraging them to help plan and prepare meals as well as selecting the vegetables they will eat at the grocery store.
As a nation, America is becoming increasingly aware of the childhood obesity epidemic. Credit for this awareness should be given to First Lady Obama for the attention she has brought to this issue through her “Let’s Move” campaign.
However, parents need to actually take action and make real lifestyle changes before the health of America’s children can improve. Parents can transform their children's eating habits, and improve their own waistline, by making a wide variety of fruits and vegetable available and modeling a healthy lifestyle.