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Facing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic by Rebecca Yohe

By at February 28, 2013 | 6:50 am | Print

Childhood obesity is a growing problem worldwide; the rate of overweight children has increased three fold in the last 30 years and continues to climb. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the rate of 2-5 year olds at an unhealthy weight has risen 20% in the last several decades. With the increased consumption of fast food our nation’s children are facing ever higher incidences of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even sleep apnea. Not to mention the emotional issues obese children face like depression and low self-esteem. These staggering statistics demand we do more to help our children regain their health and maintain a healthy lifestyle that will forever enrich their lives.

The most important step to beating the childhood obesity epidemic is nutrition education for children and parents. Most children are not able to shop independently for their food and with toddlers and preschoolers the parents are making their food choices completely. In a world that is busy and full of commitments, many parents are pressed for time and hitting a drive thru for a quick dinner.  Parents may not be trying to feed their children improperly but without educating themselves about what is really in the so called “food” of a fast food restaurant, parents are inflicting harm while trying to provide a meal for their hungry brood. A very eye opening documentary to the harm done by a fast food diet is called Super-Size Me by Morgan Spurlock. In the film he ate only McDonald’s food 3 meals a day for 30 days. His weight, blood pressure and cholesterol all rose significantly in a short period of time and while the majority of people would not be eating fast food that often, there is a large percentage of the population that eats it several times a week.

According to Cindy Good, McDonalds’s director of nutrition, the 4 piece chicken McNugget Happy Meal with apple dippers, low fat caramel dip and 1% milk is the most popular meal at 375 calories. While that is an improvement over the original Happy Meal with French fries at 600 calories, the infamous pink slime video showed the world some of the supposed food we were consuming from McDonald’s was actually inedible scrap meat treated with ammonium-hydroxide. This is a chemical in fertilizers and household cleaners that was used to kill E. coli in the meat so it could be used for human consumption instead of dog food, its usual purpose. Yum!

As parents we would never open the cabinets with cleaning products to begin preparing a meal for our children but that is exactly what happens when we entrust our children’s health to fast food restaurants that prioritize profits above the health of their customers. McDonald’s has since stopped the practice of using pink slime in its beef and chicken but how many of us, myself and my children included, ate this disgusting muck thinking that the food we were eating was indeed food? Burger King and Taco Bell are guilty of this as well and have discontinued the use of it since the controversy. Sadly, Americans have a false sense of protection if they think our government wouldn’t allow chemicals in our food, the U.S. Agriculture Department stated that the ammonium-hydroxide treated meat was generally recognized as safe. Perhaps by their standards it’s safe to consume but I am certain the rest of us must have higher standards.

If we want our children to grow and flourish into old age we must teach them how to make wise choices with whole foods, to maintain an active lifestyle and to avoid overly processed and fast foods. Our children will emulate our behavior, be it good or bad. Parents must educate themselves of the dangers in our food supply so we can help our children reach their full potential, with the added benefit of reaching ours as well.




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