Combating Childhood Obesity

by Guest Author

This a guest post from Amanda T.

With Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign, the problem of childhood obesity is finally garnering the attention it deserves. Over the past thirty years, the number of obese children has more than tripled. According to a 2007-2008 study, 17% of 2-19-year-olds are reported as obese, and 14% of 12-21 year olds report no recent regular activity whatsoever.

Childhood obesity is a growing issue in America, and without a vigorous campaign to battle it, we may see parents of this generation outlive their children for the first time in history. Michelle Obama has recently launched her program, the Let’s Move campaign, to encourage activity, nutritional eating, and a healthy lifestyle among America’s youth.

Physical Education

Aside from the creation and marketing of several very unhealthy food items, the decrease in physical education has greatly added to the increase of childhood obesity. It is important to keep kids active during the day. Even though preschool physical education and elementary school education programs are augmented when children have recess, older kids and teens are not exposed to as much activity throughout the day. High school physical education and gym classes need to encourage participation by all students, regardless of the activity. Team sports and competitions can foster excitement in some children, while others may benefit from casual activities such as jump rope, dance, and swim. Encouraging after school activity that will lead to physical activity in the teen years and adulthood is the responsibility of all physical educators.

Nutritional Eating

There are currently 31 million kids across the country enrolled in the National School Lunch Program, yet school lunches generally provide very little nutritional value. More often than not, they consist of processed foods that are cheap and easy to provide for a large group of people. It is important to replace these items with nutritional alternatives. It may not be possible to get the freshest produce items, or organically-bred meats, but the processed, fried, and battered selections have to be replaced by healthier alternatives in order to raise a healthy generation of children. The snacks and drinks provided in the cafeteria, as well as in school stores and vending machines are to be regulated to prevent excess junk food consumption by children and teens.

Chefs Move is being implemented in schools across the country. Many reputable chefs are signing up to provide healthy, tasty, and easy alternatives to the current selections found in the school cafeteria. Dietary guidelines and school budgets are difficult to juggle, but with the help of professionals, our kids will be provided with nutritional and affordable options during their school day through coordinated school health programs like Chefs Move.

What Parents Can Do To Help

As parents, it is important to reduce sedentary time, and encourage physical activity. Rather than allowing children to play video games for endless hours, or to watch television for the majority of the evening, sign them up for extracurricular team sports and activities in your community, or schedule play dates with their friends. They should spend at least an hour participating in moderate-intensity physical activity, and no more than an hour or two in front of the television or computer.

Though each meal of the day is important, be sure to provide a nutritional breakfast to jump start your child’s day. Try to avoid regular breakfasts of processed pastries and sugary cereals and provide fresh fruits, whole wheat and whole grain-based cereals. Providing nutritional food items is just as crucial as eliminating excessively processed, fatty or sugary items.

Obesity is caused by genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors, but it does not have to be the fate of our children. Healthy lifestyles and nutritional practices can help reverse the obesity trends that have been increasing exponentially for the past three decades. The social, psychological, and physical problems experienced by overweight and obese children leave lasting impressions. Let’s all help to save our kids and raise a healthy generation by striving to learn more about how to combat childhood obesity!

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Photo by David Reece

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