The incidence of childhood obesity is alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12.4 percent of 2-5 year olds are obese; for 6-11 year-olds it’s 17.0 percent; and for the 12-19 year-old crowd, it’s a whopping 17.6 percent.
The health risks as a result of obesity include heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and sleep apnea. Obesity in childhood often leads to obesity in adulthood. The younger it begins, the more worrisome the long-term health risks.
When I look back on photographs from my own childhood days, I am stunned at the size of children back then. Then again, we didn’t have access to junk food in school and fast food was for rare occasions. Every meal had vegetables — and I don’t mean french fries — and portions were reasonable. Rarely a day went by when you wouldn’t find us running around outside burning up the calories.
Remember that old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away?” Well it won’t actually keep the doctor away, but there is no doubt that forming healthy eating habits at a young age builds a strong foundation for a healthier life.
A good diet and exercise will not eradicate every health problem, but it will cut down on preventable illness. And for those who have chronic illnesses, a healthy diet will help them to maintain strength and avoid additional problems.
With all the talk these days about health care reform, we must accept responsibility for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The burden on the health care system due to obesity a tremendous waste.
Got kids? Substitute an apple for chocolate cake. Water instead of high-sugar drinks. Normal size portions rather than super-sized. The Centers for Disease Control offers these Tips for Parents to help children maintain a healthy weight:
* Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
* Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.
* Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.
* Serve reasonably-sized portions.
* Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
* Limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
* Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.
So many things are out of our hands, but our diet is not one of them. We CAN control what we eat and we CAN monitor our children’s eating habits. In fact, we owe it to them. It doesn’t make you the “bad guy.” I makes you a responsible parent, definitely the “good guy.”