Childhood Obesity Begins in Infancy
Obesity Usually Begins With Toddlers
Childhood obesity has more than tripled over the past 30 years beginning in infancy according to the CDC; nearly 15% of children according to Mayo Clinic are officially obese. Childhood obesity is the biggest pediatric problem in the USA. Children who have obese parents are 75% more likely to become obese. This is not just happening in the USA,but it is becoming a world wide problem. It is estimated that nearly half the children in America are likely to have weight problems sometime in their lives. A South Carolina woman recently lost custody of her 14 year old son after being charged with child neglect when the boy’s weight reached555 pounds, and this has happened in other states as well. Parents are ultimately responsible for the health and welfare of their children.
Parents need to be educated about the dangers for their children regarding proper nutrition and exercise and the quality of the school lunches need improvement. They are more often based on budgets than on quality nutrition. There has been a trend of removing soft drink dispensers out of schools, which is a good first step.
The reason children are becoming obese is the same reason adults do, they take in more calories than they burn which results in a caloric imbalance. Childhood obesity has immediate and long-term consequences. The children are more likely to have higher risk of actors for heart disease and high blood pressure; they have a greater risk of bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, plus social and psychological problems. When children are obese they usually carry that problem into adulthood which make them more likely to develop type2 diabetes, higher risk for all cardiovascular diseases, several types of cancer and osteoarthritis.
New Types of Classrooms
A researcher at Mayo Clinic, Dr. James A. Levine, of Rochester, Minnesota,questions whether children really need to sit at desks while they learn? They are testing a revolutionary concept as they designed what they believe to be the first chairless school, which began in 2006. It is complete with “standing”desks, and a whole host of sophisticated learning technologies. They have found the children to be eager to learn the new way. They accomplished this task by assembling various businesses to furnish the new school. The Rochester Athletic Club built an indoor village to house the school. Apple provided I Book wireless notebook computers and i Pods that play video and America on the move which is a community based advocacy organization that is raising awareness of the concept. Numerous teachers applied for an opportunity to work with this new concept. The children activity is monitored by the Mayo Clinic team by special telemetry. Each child will wear a PAD on his or her leg, which measures the time spent standing and walking. Mayo has since started a number of research projects on Non-exercise Activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which is the production of heat, especially by physiological processes, starting with 3-4 year-olds. Other schools have adopted new style classrooms since this initial project.
The Beginning of Obesity
When does obesity in children really begin? Even the health of a two year old is closely tied to how much he eats, along with his activity level. The American Heart Association has established guidelines developed for children. Since they have presented these guidelines, while the number of overweight children has still increased,they are finding that the intake of saturated fat and cholesterol has decreased. From these finding one would presume the children are still too inactive and eating too much, but perhaps food that is a bit healthier. The eating habits of a child begin when they are toddlers. The general dietary guidelines of the AHA (American Heart Association)for 2 year-olds and older, stress that their diet should primarily rely on: fruits and vegetables; whole grains;low-fat and non-dairy products; beans; fish and lean meat. The things to avoid include saturated and trans-fats, cholesterol and added sugar and salt. They also recommend that the children are active which is usually typical of toddlers anyway.
The recently published Dietary Guidelines for Americans (for those 2years of age and older) and American Academy of Pediatrics Nutrition Handbook provide important supporting reference information with regard to overall diet composition, appropriate caloric intakes at different ages, macro-nutrients, micro-nutrients, portion size, and food choices. These books spell out the exact necessary amounts calorie intake; they make serving recommendations with regard to overall quality of the food choices.
Milk Substitute and Snacks
I raised 3 boys and I know these recommendations are easier said than done. Toddlers are often picky about what they eat, and sometimes they don’t want to eat at all. I didn’t know all this information when my children were young, although I tried to feed them balanced meals. Children need a balanced diet which means eating a proper amount and variety of nutritious foods. This means eating a combination of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Proteins build muscles,carbohydrates provide the body with energy and fats provide long-lasting energy.
So, how can we follow the guidelines of the American Heart Association with regard to milk? Once a child is weaned, they still need a lot of calcium and vitamin D. Enfamil and some other formulas are now made with soy milk. Many children have a milk intolerance, as lactose intolerance is much more common now, so soy milk is one alternative. If soy milk is the only type of milk your child has ever drunk they will not miss cow’s milk. However, soy milk is low in fat and it isn’t recommended that you child have their fat intake limited until they are 2 or 3 years old. Goats milk is another possibility,however, it lacks iron, folate and Vitamin B12 unless it is fortified, so ready our labels. Other foods that have calcium include yogurt, fortified orange juice, bread (Kid’s Iron Bread) and American cheese that can have up to 350 mg of calcium per slice. If your child has a true allergy to cow’s milk they are likely to have the same problem with goat’s milk. Fortified cereals may add a lot of nutrients to your child’s diets.
As allergies are also more common science recommends that you rotate your child’s food so they do not eat the same thing too many days in a row. According to some research eating something every fourth day will help prevent allergies.
Snacks are another problem as children love candy, cookies and ice cream, just to name a few. The first obvious choice would be to try to use fruit. Children often like finger foods, so grapes, berries, raisins, other dried fruit, and fruit that is cut up into bite size pieces may be more acceptable to your toddler. If you want to let them have ice cream, try frozen yogurt instead. Children like granola type bars and they are available in lower fat concentrates now. Common sense and moderation should rule the choices. Not keeping high calorie sweets in the house makes it easier to control what your child eats
Child Eating Fast food
As Children Age
Once you child reaches the age where they are playing with other children in the neighborhood you might talk to the parents of a playmate to let them know you don’t want your child to have certain foods and hopefully by that time the child will like the diet at home and be less inclined to try foods they are not familiar with. Most children will certainly like candy, but you could choose Raisins for instance. At least they would be getting some fruit with their chocolate. Chocolate has a lot of flavonoids and is not all bad in moderation.
In summary, we need to look at new options to help prevent childhood obesity and begin in infancy the healthy food choices for you want for your child. It is not always easy, but the goal is to raise a healthy happy child, free of disease if possible. If you remember that childhood obesity begins in infancy it will help you as a parent to curb the problem before it starts.
© 2010 Pamela Oglesby
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