Tag Archives: childhood obesity

Children and Junk Food

Posted by Marianne Frederick

As we look again at the scourge of childhood obesity and early onset Type II diabetes in our families, we need to examine our tendency to choose fast food or junk food over healthier meals. Mac n’ cheese is okay once in awhile, but, it should not be a staple. If “you are what you eat,” your children are what you feed them.

Although I’ve loved French fries since childhood, I know if I eat them regularly I will have a weight problem. French fries are simply fat-drenched potatoes (starch) sprinkled with salt (sodium or potassium chloride). If you break down that silly oh-so-satisfying snack, the potatoes are healthful fiber, but a healthier alternative is bake and top them with plain, low-fat yogurt. We all know that junk food is more often than not, a faster alternative to time-consuming, thoughtful food preparation. Just drive to the local fast-food restaurant and the family can eat in the car, no preparation and little clean-up required! But do you know that an order of French fries can contain 13 grams of fat, 250 calories which is 20% of your daily recommended fat intake?

And as parents and caregivers, unless we change our behavior we can’t expect kids to change theirs. Here are some tips to recognize and avoid–or at least curb–your and your children’s consumption of junk food:

  • Read the labels to help recognize junk food: Candy, cookies, donuts, sugary breakfast cereals, ice cream, soda, sugary “fruit” drinks, food high in salt, foods high in fat, high calorie food with little nutritional value;
  • Take greater control of your family’s diet by planning sit-down meals in advance, so you know what you’re going to buy at the grocery store. This isn’t easy and sometimes the plan falls apart, but even thinking about a plan is a good way to aim to get more of the right things into your and your children’s diets;
  • In your family’s meal plans incorporate more foods low in fat, foods low in saturated fat, foods low in cholesterol, high-fiber foods, including whole grains, vegetables and fruits; foods containing moderate amounts of sugar or salt; calcium-rich foods; and iron-rich foods.
  • Children and adults need some fat in the diet, but better “fats” are unsaturated fats, so read the labels to make sure what you are buying is good to feed your family. Children under 5 years old need only about 45 grams of fat daily; adults need about 65 grams of fat–so note that your children’s fat requirement is less than yours;
  • Buy leaner cuts of meat; and if you buy ground beef, aim for the 90% lean. Incorporate more chicken and fish in your family’s diets. If you purchase pork products, make sure they are lean–most grocery store butchers will trim the fat for you if you ask. Low-fat lunch meats are also a help in supplying lean protein in your family’s diet; bear in mind that bologna and salami can contain more fat than leaner turkey, chicken, or ham.
  • Often high fat foods are “fast foods” like sausage biscuits, double cheeseburgers, nachos, corndogs, enchiladas, thick shakes and super-sized drinks, so you may want to reduce the number of trips to fast food places that don’t offer healthful alternatives such as side salads, grilled chicken or fish, and unsweetened beverages.

Remember, parents and caregivers, regarding your family’s healthful diet, you’re in the driver’ seat!

Moms Oblivious to Overweight Toddlers

Recently, MedPage Today’s Crystal Phend highlighted the results of a study that mothers frequently turn a blind eye to their toddlers who are overweight. In the article of May 7, 2012, Phend said instead of being apprehensive about their babies’ pudgy cheeks and chubby bodies, mothers seemed to approve of these as signs their babies were on track and normal.

The study and its results, performed by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in Baltimore, were published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. The study also noted that mothers of children whose weights were “healthy” were less satisfied with their babies’ body size. Those moms regarded heavier toddlers as the norm.

In the past, heavier babies have been symbols of health and successful parenting; and, therefore, have been perceived to be less at risk for a variety of childhood illnesses. Seventy percent of the mothers in this study did not correctly perceive their baby’s body size–possibly indicating that love is truly blind. How often have I heard a mom say when referring to her toddler’s weight, “Oh, she’s not fat, she’s just pleasantly plump, just right!”

But, it is not difficult to recognize, especially with recent publicity, that there is a looming safety and health problem in our country. It is a problem that has become very costly to our society in many ways. It is obesity. And sometimes it begins, sadly, in childhood with parents frequently over-feeding their children or allowing them to eat too many foods which are not healthful–and, certainly, too much fast food. This often sets up a dangerous pattern that is difficult to reverse or conquer as an older child or adult, and can even be the precursor of Type II diabetes, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels and a host of weight-related bone structure and tissue problems.

Childsafetyblog.org hopes that to keep your baby healthy, you will be sure to go to all your pediatrician appointments regularly and check your baby’s weight-to-length ratio with your pediatrician to make sure your baby’s weight and growth are where they should be. Feeding toddlers healthful foods, making sure they have adequate play, exercise, and rest, are just a few ways to help keep your babies happy and healthy, and ultimately reduce their risk of becoming an obese child or adult.

Asthma and Obesity in Children–Parents Pay Attention!

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says obesity is a serious health concern for young children.  Results of the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) point out that in U.S. children (2-19), 17 percent of children were found to be obese.[1]  Recently, some studies have shown that there is a real link between obesity and asthma in children.[2]

The incidence of asthma in the general  population in the U.S. increased significantly from 1986 to 2005[3], and obesity, also known to mechanically compromise proper function of the lungs and airways, is associated with asthma-related inflammation. Among pre-school age children 2-5 years of age, obesity also increased significantly from 5 to 10.4% between 1976-1980 and 2007-2008.[4]  Other conditions in children, such as high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and hyperinsulinemia, have also been observed on the increase and are associated with asthma in children.[5]  Dr. Deana Ferreri draws the conclusion that regardless of body weight, “the standard American diet is likely taking its toll on lung function”[6] in our children.

Certainly, there are things that parents can do to keep asthma in check when children have been diagnosed with asthma, such as keeping children’s prescriptions current, choosing their activities wisely and making sure children do not become overexerted, and watching out for things which trigger asthma, like pet dander and other allergens. However, scientific research and studies like NHANES are also pointing the finger at young children’s diet toward keeping it healthful to ward off conditions like asthma and obesity.

We note in the news this week that San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors are continuing to take action to ban fast food companies from placing toys in so-called “Happy Meals™” sold in fast food restaurants in San Francisco.  McDonald’s and other fast-food chain restaurants are pushing back through the National Fast Food Restaurant Association’s efforts.  But the point is the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is leading the charge to get fast food restaurants to reformulate their “happy” meals to exclude toys (which encourage children to request the typically high calorie-high fat meals) but to include more healthy foods that contain less grams of saturated fats.  Madelyn Furnstrom on MSNBC stated today with regard to children’s meals containing saturated fats, that parents don’t even know what’s going on!

ChildSafetyBlog.org concurs with CDC and wants to make sure that parents and caregivers of young children know eating healthfully as a young child paves the way for a child’s healthy growth–and may help to stave off childhood obesity and other conditions, such as asthma.

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obesity and Overweight for Professionals, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity,  2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES),

[2]Disease Proof: Eat Smart, Live Happy, “Childhood Diet Linked to Asthma Prevalence”, Deana Ferreri, Ph.D., September 27, 2010.

[3] Ibid.

[4] CDC, op. cit.

[5] Op Cit.

[6] Ibid.