About 2 weeks ago, President Obama declared September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. As many might already know, childhood obesity has been a prominent issue throughout his presidency, with First Lady Michelle Obama leading the campaign of the Let’s Move initiative.
While not obese, I was overweight for a period of time in my childhood; many would call it my “baby fat” stage. But nonetheless, the experience has made the currently alarming rate of childhood obesity a priority issue in my life as a dietitian.
Data from the CDC reveals that currently 17% of children and adolescents ages 2 – 19 are obese. That’s approximately 12.5 million of America’s youth with an already high risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease; health issues that are typically considered as primarily affecting adults. Even more disconcerting is that these numbers only reflect the obese youth; if you factor in those whom are overweight, the number jumps to about 23 million. The current rate of overweight and obesity is almost triple that of 1980.
However, steps are being taken to resolve this problem. The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act was recently passed which brings about major changes to school lunches around the country. Soon we will start seeing more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and less fat and sodium on our children’s lunch trays.
There are things you can do as well, as parents, aunts/uncles, teachers, mentors, etc. Offer wholesome meals and snacks; try baby carrots and hummus instead of potato chips (I swear this works – I simply offered a carrot dipped in hummus to my nephew when he was 2 and he ate it no questions asked). Exposing kids to a variety of healthy options when they are young opens them up to being more accepting of new foods as they grow.
Another important thing to consider is as simple as 4 letters: P-L-A-Y. Playing is not only great physical activity for kids, it can be a great bonding experience for the whole family. So while the weather is still pleasant, go out and swim, play tag, hide and seek, frisbee, baseball….anything to just get moving.
So now take advantage of the rest of the month and spread the word about National Childhood Obesity Awareness!
—Christina Molinski, MS, RD—
References & Resources:
- Presidential Proclamation — National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, 2012
- Dept of Health and Human Services Statement on National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
- National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
- CDC Overweight and Obesity
- Let’s Move