Children's Nutrition: The Future Is In Our Hands
We read the headlines every day. The obesity epidemic is a major public health crisis facing Americans. However, how many of us realize that the true face of the epidemic is children?
For a child born in the United States in the year 2000, one-third will develop diabetes in their lifetime — and the form of diabetes that is the most prevalent is Type 2. This diabetes develops due to a genetic predisposition, too many calories and too little physical activity. In 2007, the number of overweight or obese 4th graders in Texas was estimated to be 42%. A real crisis!
As obesity frequently steals the headlines, we must realize that obesity and good nutrition often do not go hand in hand. In Harris County alone...
- Over 23% of children live in poverty.
- 47% of children are at high risk of poverty as they come from low income families.
- About 14% of children have iron deficiency anemia.
- Only 22% of children eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
As income declines, the ability to purchase high quality and nutritious foods becomes limited. Often children from the poorest families eat high calorie, nutrient poor foods.
So where can parents, grandparents and caregivers go to get accurate information on the nutritional needs of children? The answer is just a click away! Kids Eat Right is a website dedicated to helping children and their families learn nutritious and cost effective ways to shop, cook and eat. Kids Eat Right is a joint campaign between the ADA and ADA Foundation. The mission of the ADA Foundation is to advance public health and nutrition utilizing the expertise of registered dietitians. The website will feature cooking videos, healthy "kid-friendly recipes" and nutrition tips that are updated weekly.
Additionally, some tips to help improve nutrition for today's children include:
- Serve your children on smaller plates to avoid feeding them adult portions.
- Fruits and vegetables should occupy about half the plate. Keep in mind that canned fruits in their own juice and canned vegetables are very economical and are more nutritious than most people believe.
- Reduce the fat in dairy products. After the age of 2, kids should be switched to skim milk even if that is not your favorite. Milk remains the leading source of dietary calcium in children's diets.
- Remove sweetened beverages from your child's diet. This includes soda, sweet tea, lemonade and fruit punch. Sports drinks should be used only for sports and not for lunch time. These are expensive items with little nutritional value!
Celebrate children and celebrate healthy food during National Nutrition Month!