Childhood Obesity: An American Crisis

Written by Beth Marlin Lichter
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Why are so many of our children overweight and what can we do about it? Parents are scrambling to support kids and have less time to shop for food, prepare meals and sit down together for dinner. Fast food restaurants are easy, inexpensive and convenient. More and more we have come to rely upon them for daily sustenance. The problem is, most fast food contains a high amount of fat and calories. If a school child eats a vending machine lunch and a fast food dinner, most likely he or she is consuming too much fat, sugar, and exceeding the amount of calories necessary for good nutrition.

Combine a diet low in nutrients and high in empty calories, with a sedentary lifestyle, and you have a prescription for obesity. Television and video games are a popular after-school pastime, often interrupted only by a bit of homework until it’s time for bed. Late night snacking on junk food completes the picture of an unhealthy day.

What can we do about it? Many schools are getting actively involved in educating their students regarding nutrition and the importance of exercise. Lunch programs are being restructured to offer healthier alternatives to high caloric, fatty foods. What do kids need more of? Salads, fruits, vegetables and lean protein provide essential building blocks for strong bodies and minds. At home, parents can make sure to serve more helpings of fruits and vegetables and keep healthy snacks available to munch on. Sodas must go.

Activity must also be increased, which could include more playground time, walks with the dog, or participation in an after-school sport. Limiting tv time is a good start, but the key is to structure more time off the couch.

More and more children are suffering from obesity-related diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. These same kids tend to have problems with peers at school, developing low self-esteem, and are more prone to depression.

We need to educate our children, not only academically, but by being responsible for their well-being. This means teaching them sound eating habits as well as offering more opportunity for exercise and play. Otherwise, we are leading them down the path towards adult obesity and a lifetime of struggling with weight-related issues. Carrot sticks and a game of hoops, anyone?


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