Guest Author - Stephanie Watson
The obesity rate in children is getting higher every single day in the western world, especially the United States. Many parents who appear to be at a perfectly healthy weight have children who are not just a little chubby, but are outright obese. This is dangerous for many reasons but when you realize that children today have been given a lower life expectancy than their parents it gets real scary -- real fast.
Obesity in children is defined based on their age, growth stage, sex and over all body composition and not the same BMI charts that are used for adults. It is best to have a physician define what obesity is for your child. However, if your child is having issues due to being made fun of for being fat, other people are commenting that your child is fat, or your child cannot participate easily in age appropriate physical activity, it's time to do something about it. It might not just be "baby fat" you're looking at. See your pediatrician for clear answers.
There are numerous reasons why children are heavier today than they were just 20 years ago. For one, modern technology plays a large role since children today are not moving around as much as they used to. One of the most important factors in childhood obesity rates actually has to do more with poor nutrition and the increased overall consumption of highly processed, highly caloric, high fat, nutritionally devoid foods. Together, lack of activity, along with poor nutrition make a dangerous combination that spells trouble for more than half the United States population.
Having said that, the human body is amazingly adept at ensuring it gets the nutrition it needs. It will take calcium out of the bones and teeth, for instance, in times of shortages. It will also signal the brain to tell the stomach that it is hungry to force the desire to eat. The brain does not care if you get too many calories, but it does care if you aren't getting enough nutrition. That is why you can eat a Whopper, fries and a large soda that is very high in calories, but offers no nutrition what so ever, and be hungry an hour later. You're going to get hungry later, even though the food consumed was high in calories because the body cares more about nutrition than calories. The body will force you to want to eat more, seeking out the right combination of nutrients that it feels it needs.
Today's children typically do not eat made from scratch food from home. Even if mom or dad cooks, it is often prepackaged food that offers low nutrition but high calories. There is a huge difference in making au gratin potatoes from scratch compared to making them from a box. The boxed kind has preservatives and chemicals that some say are addictive. It also has loads of fat, salt and sugar. All of which combine together to form a truly drug-like addictive substance that offers flavor excitement, but little else.
Food manufactures create food such as easy to prepare meals that are full of chemicals and highly concentrated flavanoids which causes addiction in humans. In the processing process, important components are taken out, such as fiber, vitamins and water. In the place of these important parts of whole foods they add preservatives, chemicals and other substances that are highly concentrated. These substances stimulate the brain in a way that is consistent with drug use, causing addictive eating behaviors.
Instead, making au gratin potatoes from scratch can be a better way to ensure that all the ingredients are whole, fresh and organic -- without additives. While it would be best to eat roasted potatoes than ones with a lot of ingredients such as au gratin potatoes, you will still be better off if you're controlling the ingredients than you are when purchasing packaged and prepared foods. Try making fresh whole vegetables unadulterated by toppings and you may be surprised at how much they are enjoyed.
It is surprising to note that many children in the United States do not even know what actual vegetables taste like. On one of his television shows, Chef Jamie Oliver showed school children a variety of vegetables and fruits and many of the children had no idea what they were. Even the U.S. Government (via the USDA) has gone into action by implementing new nutrition criteria for school lunch meals in 2012. These standards will provide more raw and cooked fruits and vegetables, less sugar, less fat and salt than in the past. While some controversy has boiled up claiming children are going hungry due to the new guidelines - the truth is, this was a long time coming.
Change is always hard. But change needs to happen if we want to save our children from a lifetime of obesity and all the diseases that come with it. If you would like to start a change in your own family, start with yourself. Offer a variety of nutritionally rich foods at home that do not come from packages but rather from the ground. Eliminate extraneous salts, sugars and fats from the entire family's diet not just the child who has a weight problem. Finally, find fun and physically vigorous activities to do with the entire family for at least 30 minutes on a daily basis. After all, our children's futures depend on it.