The obesity epidemic is truly an EPIDEMIC; I was reminded of this while sitting poolside on a cruise ship in the Atlantic Ocean this past winter. The overwhelming majority of people from all over the world were either overweight or obese. It was shocking to see many young people fitting into those categories as well.
According to the CDC, “the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s. Data from 2015-2016 show that nearly one in five school age children and young people (6 to 19) in the United States has obesity.” All of this translates roughly into over 12 million children in the United States are obese.
The two biggest culprits contributing to this nationwide issue is diet and activity. There is a reported 91 percent of children who have deficient diets and almost two-thirds of American youth consume a sugary beverage on any given day. Nearly 24.7 percent of high school aged students watch three or more hours of television per day. Not good. The health of our country is on the decline and it has been for decades. The problem starts in childhood and it begins primarily with the food and beverages parents buy for their families.
Foods loaded with sugar, wheat, soy and corn are the mainstays of a young person’s diet in 2018. Not sure why this is okay for kids and not for adults but this seems to be the case. Sugar, in particular high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), is in soda, juice boxes, granola bars, snacks, sports drinks, ice tea, cereal, peanut butter, bread, pasta and of course, Starbucks (just to name a few!). Every shelf in every aisle in every grocery store is littered and loaded with fake food that parents are gladly buying and feeding to their kids contributing to the health care crisis in our country.
Whole food will be a tough sell to a child, in my opinion, if they are introduced to sugar at a very young age. It takes time and discipline for adults to abstain from sugar so why would this be any different for a child? Why is it okay for adults to eat in a healthy way and for kids to not? Why does being “a kid” excuse you from the facts when the facts state that excess sugar consumption can cause dental problems, obesity, behavior issues and lower academic performance...again just to name a few?
A large contributing factor to sugar addiction in youth is the consumption of fruit juice. Stuffing a juice box into the hands or lunches of a young person is not a form of healthily hydrating your child. Instead, and quite simply, just give them water. Eating fruit is a much better alternative to fruit juice and keep in mind that drinking juice drives one’s risk for diabetes up to 21% as opposed to eating whole fruits that decrease one’s risk by 23%. Juice has a much higher glycemic index than fruit because the insoluble fiber component of fruit is removed as a result of the juicing process. Fiber helps slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream which lessens the insulin response which is why real fruit is better than juice.
I get it; vegetables are not exciting to children but candy, cookies, juice and soda are! Again, whole food is a tough sell when kids are accustomed to eating sweetened foods. Drinking fruit juices – fresh or not – simply spike blood sugar thus triggering an insulin response. Let’s look at the sugar content of juices based on a 1 cup serving size:
Apple Juice: 24 grams
Orange Juice: 26 grams
Prune Juice: 66 grams
Grapefruit Juice: 23 grams
Cranberry Juice: 31 grams
The sugar content in these juices is high and very close to the amount of sugar in a can of soda. Water is real and the best – really only – option for hydration. In sum, it’s important to get your child accustomed to eating real food instead of fake food. Shopping at farm stands as much as possible, instead of grocery stores, will help eliminate the temptation to buy crap. Start your kids on the path to healthfulness now before the harmful effects of chronic sugar consumption begin to take hold. Run away from food in packages and make the time to meal prep and cook for your family. Get creative with water and make it fun by adding fresh cucumbers, mint or strawberries to flavor it up!
Take on the obesity epidemic by making a difference in your home, among your family members and at your kitchen table!