Our Obese Children

I have good news and bad news. Let me give you the bad news first. One out of every three (or 31.7 percent) of children aged two to 19 are overweight or obese in our country. This excess weight is medically costly, estimated at $3 billion dollars per year.In the future, these kids will have a greater risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  What’s more, recent studies have shown that childhood obesity more than doubles the risk of dying before age 55, which makes this the first generation in history to potentially die before their parents.Now let me give you the good news. Michelle Obama has a plan. In February, she launched the Let’s Move! campaign (www.letsmove.gov) with high hopes of drastically reducing our childhood obesity rate within a generation. Her goal is to return the statistic to five percent by the year 2030, which was the statistic in the 1970s.  A few weeks ago her Let’s Move campaign issued 70 recommendations to facilitate this change on a local and national level.  I read the report. Allow me to bring you up to speed.

The recommendations focus on five priority areas. The first area is creating a healthy start for children, which begins before they are born. Good prenatal care is essential and needs to be accessible to all women. Once babies are born there should be supportive measures in place to promote and support breastfeeding. These recommendations also emphasize the importance of limiting screen time for young children.

The second recommendation is to empower parents to make healthy choices. The report recommends simpler messages on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Labels on foods at grocery stores and menus in restaurants should be easy to read, allowing parents to make good decisions. In addition, the report calls on media and entertainment companies to limit food marketing of unhealthy products.

The third recommendation is to provide healthy food in schools. This begins with an update of the federal nutritional standards for school meals and to improve the quality of USDA commodities provided to schools. – e report acknowledges that the nutritional value of foods sold in schools needs an upgrade and swapping out deep fryers for salad bars is a good start. Implementation of school garden programs is also encouraged to teach students about healthy eating.

The fourth recommendation is to ensure access to healthy, affordable food. Fat-laden potato chips are significantly cheaper than broccoli. The report suggests that prices of healthier food should be lowered so more people can afford the food. Furthermore, processed food should be reformulated to be healthier.
A fifth recommendation is to increase opportunities for physical activity, especially in schools.

After reading the report, some of you may believe that Laguna Beach is exempt from this problem. I can assure you we are not. Even if your child is not overweight or obese, the quality of the food they consume affects their health. We must join together as a community and take a serious look at our activity levels and the kind of food we provide at home, in our schools and at extracurricular activities. Let’s move on this now.

Printed by the Laguna Beach Independent

About Melanie Silverman

Melanie is a pediatric registered dietitian nutritionist (RD) and a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) working primarily in pediatric nutrition for well over 15 years. She spent seven years as a clinical dietitian at The University of Chicago Medical Center in the neonatal intensive care unit, pediatric intensive care unit, adult and pediatric burn units, and high risk pediatric follow-up clinic. She also served as an adjunct faculty member at Loyola University Chicago. Melanie has presented at state and national meetings for the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN), March of Dimes, Prader-Willi California Foundation, Texas Prader-Willi Association, Oklahoma Prader Willi Syndrome Association, Foundation for Prader-Willi Research (FPWR) in the United States and Canada and the Prader-Willi Syndrome USA (PWSA). She worked hard for her Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry and Spanish from Indiana University and a Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center. A member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, California Dietetic Association, Pediatric Nutrition Practice Group, Women’s Health Group, Nutrition Entrepreneurs and an active member of the International Lactation Consultant Association.