Obesity affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States - triple the rate from just one generation ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention.
With childhood obesity at epidemic proportions in the U.S., the CDC has compiled tips on the micro-level to suggest how parents can encourage their children to eat healthfully, and on the macro-level has targeted changes at the state and community level.
States and Communities
States and communities can have powerful effects on childrenâ€™s food environments by targeting local neighborhoods and schools. Citizens can sit in at their town or countyâ€™s next committee meeting or their schoolâ€™s next board meeting and voice their opinion! Here are ways to get you thinking:
- Assess your state/communityâ€™s food retail environment. For example, map the availability and distribution of healthy food across the state. Then based on the findings, strive to increase access to healthy foods in areas that lack access to such commodities. One way to do this may be to create incentives for businesses to sell more nutritious and healthful products and to expand their businesses to lower income areas.
- Map out state parks and playgrounds. Look for areas that are widespread or have few to no public play areas. Having public access to play areas allows children the opportunity to meet up with friends and engage in physical activity.
- Get the junk food out of our schools! The key idea is REPLACEMENT. Encourage your school to REPLACE the unhealthy options with more nutritious options. For example: instead of having an ice cream bar, have a salad bar. Instead of vending machines full of sugary drinks, have bottled water or water fountains.
- What do children love? TEAM COMPETITIONS! Based on this idea, encourage your school to participate in the Healthier US School Challenge to win a gold, silver, or bronze medal as well as money for having a healthier school environment. What student wouldnâ€™t want to say his school has a gold medal, and what school couldnâ€™t use a few extra dollars? Click here for more information.
- Increase physical activity. Does your school have a mandatory physical education program? Physical activity is key in developing teamwork skills and self confidence, while maintaining a healthy body weight.
The CDC guidelines for parents are similar to the guidelines for schools. If your child is eating healthfully both at school AND at home, you will be well on your way to ensuring your child has a healthy lifestyle.
- Follow the REPLACEMENT idea above. Provide fruits and vegetables at meals instead of food with high fat content. Give your child water instead of sugary beverages. Encourage your child to play outside instead of watching TV.
- Get involved at your childâ€™s school. By getting involved one can help limit junk food in schools, make the school healthier and unite community members in an important cause.
Most of these tips boil down to one idea: REPLACEMENT.Â On the macro-level, REPLACE fast food restaurants with farmerâ€™s markets and healthy grocery stores. On the micro-level, REPLACE desserts with fruits/veggies, sugary drinks with water, and TV with physical activity.
For more tips from the CDC on decreasing childhood obesity, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/solutions.html