The childhood obesity epidemic has become of such concern, some school districts have taken to issuing BMI reports along with kids’ academic report cards.
BMI — or Body Mass Index percentile — is a means of determining obesity by dividing a person’s weight by their height. Children scoring at or above the 95th percentile for age and gender are overweight, according to these reports. Those in the 85th to 94th percentile are at risk of becoming overweight. Children in the 5th to 84th are considered at a healthy weight.
Obesity in children has risen for a variety of reasons — a major one the amount of advertising devoted to youngsters. Everywhere children turn, they are being sold foods with little to no nutritional value. Just how influential is TV? The government thinks it is powerful enough to use Shrek in a new TV campaign against childhood obesity. In the ads, Shrek will be encouraging children to get off their duffs and start exercising. McDonald’s and PepsiCo are two of the companies helping to back the campaign.
What can you do? It’s time to start lobbying for your children’s health both on a social level and at home.
ON A SOCIAL LEVEL
—Contact your senator and other elected officials to let them know of your concerns. In an article in The New York Times last year entitled, “The Big Fat American Kid Crises…. And 10 Things We Should Do About It”, Eleanor Randolph provides a wealth of information on Federal agencies, lawsuits, and pro-active steps to lessen the rise of childhood obesity.
—Talk to your school board. Healthy meals and snacks need to be available for all students. And why not provide classes on nutrition and health?
Ask yourself, “What type of role model am I?” Time to step up to the plate (no pun intended)! Now is the time to teach your kids how good nutritious food can taste, and how great they can feel when they eat it.
The game plan
In general, monitor portion sizes and eliminate white sugars and white flour. Bring in healthier options such as 100 percent whole grain breads and crackers. When reading labels, the first ingredient should be whole wheat flour, for example, not unbleached or enriched whole wheat flour. Try whole wheat or spelt (has a nutty flavor) pastas for a healthier alternative to regular pasta.
Water is important for numerous reasons, among them increasing metabolism and warding off fatigue. Eliminate sodas and fruit juices or cut their intake in half. Fruit juice may be diluted with water for a slower rise in blood sugar.
Following are some suggestions of what to eat throughout the day:
—Low sugar cereal or oatmeal (three or more grams of fiber) with low fat milk
—100 percent whole wheat toast or English Muffin with peanut butter
—Low-fat sugar-free yogurt (mix with 100 percent fruit jam)
—Snack bags with plain Cheerios, raisins, and a few nuts
—Graham Crackers and low-fat milk
—Low-fat sugar-free yogurt
—Smoothie made with yogurt, fresh fruit and low-fat milk
—Apple or banana with peanut butter
—Veggies with or without low-fat dip
—Whole grain low-fat (no trans fats) crackers or rice cakes with one to two ounces of cheese
—Popcorn (air-popped or light microwavable bags)
—Salad, fruit salad or low-fat soup to start
—Grilled, steamed, or lightly sautéed veggies
—Lean meats, fish, shellfish or vegetarian options such as soy
—Baked or oven “fried” sweet or regular potatoes as an option to French fries
—Fresh fruit with angel food cake or low-fat yogurt for dessert
—Water: plain or with a squeeze of fresh orange, lemon, or lime
—Add a packet of Celestial Seasonings’ Zingers To Go (found in tea section) to water
—Herbal tea (try iced)
And don’t forget:
—Make it fun!
—Pick activities you can do with your children
—Less TV and video/computer games
—Earn points towards something special for every 30 minutes of exercise completed
—Take time to talk about feelings
—Encourage kids to talk, write or draw about what’s upsetting them
There are numerous websites with a wealth of info on all of these issues. One that’s particularly useful is www.kidshealth.org.
Kids need to know they have your support no matter what. Let them know how much you love them. And remember that the positive changes you make in your lifestyle have a direct effect on those around you.
REBECCA M. WILBORN, who lives in Nyack, has been the director of Manhattan's Diet Center on East 56th Street for 17 years and has lectured for corporations and such groups as NAFE and AWED. She has written for CBS Healthwatch and has been featured on CBS Evening News and Good Day NY. Her weight-loss programs are based on practices recommended by the American Heart Association, American Diabetic Association, and American Cancer Society.