Childhood obesity rates have skyrocketed over the past 40 years. Between the late 1970’s and 2008, obesity rates doubled in preschoolers and more than tripled in 6-11 year olds and adolescents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17% of American children are currently obese—not surprising when you consider that vegetables consist of less than 2% of children’s diets.1 Although children do get less exercise than in past generations, diet is the biggest contributor to childhood obesity.2
When children carry excess weight, it threatens their future health. Approximately 3,600 American children are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes each year, and are in danger of future complications from the disease.3 Seventy percent of obese children have at least one cardiovascular disease risk factor and 39% have two or more risk factors.4 A study that followed American children for 24 years found that childhood obesity was the greatest risk factor for a premature death due to chronic disease.5 Plus, childhood diets have a strong influence on adult cancers—children’s growing bodies are formed by the foods that they eat.6-7
Children in our society become addicted to junk food at a young age, and will repeatedly demand these foods. It takes a great deal of effort to derail these bad habits once they are established. Parents are the ones primarily responsible for what their children are eating. Our goal should be to instill healthy habits in our children early on so that they grow up at a healthy weight, appreciate healthy food and exercise, and hold on to those habits as adults. Here are some tips:
When parents live a healthful lifestyle, their children follow. More information on feeding children healthfully can be found in my book Disease Proof Your Child.