Combating Childhood Obesity Through Healthy Eating

October 29, 2018
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Childhood obesity is a very complex situation. We live in a society where things are a lot different than they used to be.

For instance, Wilmington is close to more rural areas where people once predominantly fished or farmed for a living. While some people still follow those occupations, most of us lead more sedentary lifestyles.

Instead of a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, we’re in the generation of chips and soda being the primary snacks that kids just love to eat.

Cravings for those types of foods instead of fresh fruits and vegetables can lead to obesity in children.

More than 13 million children and adolescents in the United States are at risk for poor health because of obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For children and adolescents ages 2 to 19, the prevalence of obesity was 18.5 percent and affected about 13.7 million children and adolescents.

Among 2- to 5-year-olds, obesity prevalence was 13.9 percent, according to data from a 2015-16 survey. It was 18.4 percent among 6- to 11-year-olds and 20.6 percent among 12- to 19-year-olds.

It’s more common to see childhood obesity among certain populations. Some examples: Hispanics, at 25.8 percent, and non-Hispanic blacks, at 22 percent, had higher obesity prevalence than non-Hispanic whites, with 14.1 percent. Non-Hispanic Asians, at 11.0 percent, had lower obesity prevalence.

Families and communities, not just parents, must set good eating examples by buying fewer unhealthy foods.

There are some ways you can combat those cravings.

Think of the concept that no food is bad food; it’s the habits that we have associated with those foods that can lead to problems.

It’s OK to have a Dorito -- trust me, I eat them, too -- but not every day. Maybe once a week or once a month.

If you do the grocery shopping in your family, you know fresh fruits and vegetables can be expensive. One option is to supplement fresh with frozen fruits and vegetables, which are better for us than canned foods.

Something I grew up doing with my parents and family in Jacksonville is when the corn is abundant, cut it off the cob yourself and freeze it. When the greens are abundant, cook them and freeze them instead of going to get those convenience foods.

Show and teach your children that these foods are good, also.

Limited processed foods are OK, but you can make similar dishes to Rice-A-Roni or macaroni and cheese. Use fresh foods when possible and do not serve the processed foods as often.

And while diet is a major factory in maintaining a healthy weight, don’t forget to encourage young people to work more than just their index and thumb fingers playing video games. Remind them that basketball, jumping rope, hide and seek and other games are fun too. And parents, don’t be afraid to get out there to show your kids how it’s done.

Dr. Constance Foreman practices family medicine with NHRMC Physician Group – New Hanover Medical Group. She has special interests in nutrition and weight loss.

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