In the last 30 years, the rate of childhood obesity has more than tripled according to the Center for Disease Control.
With a constant focus on calories in vs. calories out, being more active, and eating lower fat foods since the 1970's, how can childhood obesity be increasing like this? We've been following the "healthy diet" rules for years but things aren't improving. There are a lot of theories circling around right now about the cause(s) of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease and it's hard (like, a full-time job hard) to navigate this overwhelming field of research. One positive thing about all of this is that more money is pouring into research on these topics than ever before, so maybe an answer will come sooner rather than later.
One thing researchers and scientists (and parents) can agree on is that there is an immense amount of convenient, inexpensive, and nutrient-poor packaged foods available to us all the time. This wasn't so much the case back in 1965 when childhood obesity rates were more than three times lower than they are today.
As busy parents, it's easy for us to grab a granola bar and a juice box for our kids as we're headed out the door to whatever activity we have scheduled. Let's be real, granola bars are tasty! And we're busy! Our kids are busy! Everyone is busy. Eating and preparing real food takes time. It can also take money. There are mixed reviews about whether or not it's more expensive to eat healthy, but the fact remains that eating healthy today takes more time than most of us feel we have, especially when we can grab a quick protein bar or smoothie as we head out the door.
And can we talk about how convenient is it to have snacks in the car, ready-to-go, for when we pick the kids up at school and shuttle them to-and-from after-school activities?! Lifesaving, at times, right? That was an interesting term to use: lifesaving. But, are those packaged, ready-to-eat snacks really "lifesaving"? Let's call them what they really are: life-damaging. None of us are intending to damage the lives of our children, but it's exactly what we're doing when we provide them with these convenient foods.
So now what? Now that we know we might be unintentionally “damaging” our children’s lives, what are we supposed to do?
The way I see it, we have 2 choices:
- Change the foods we make available to ourselves and our children, or
- Keep doing what we're doing
I vote for option 1. Change. Robin Sharma said, "Change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end." This won't be easy, but Jimmy Dugan told us that "The hard is what makes it great," and I am so ready for great.
How do we start to make this change? Here are a few of the things I’m going to start doing in my own life:
- Make a plan for what to eat when the sugar cravings and/or hunger hit. In my home we will be focusing on eating good, high-fat foods that have moderate amounts of protein and low amounts of carbohydrates. My go-to food plan will be eggs, almonds, whole fat cheese sticks, & whole fat plain yogurt with thawed, frozen berries on top. Fruits and veggies will always be at the ready to grab and go.
Shop the perimeter of the grocery store (avoid buying foods in the center isles)
Read food labels and be aware of the 57 names of sugar
Limit or completely eliminate processed foods
Manage my environment! I’m going to get rid of the stuff in my home that is damaging to our health (sugar, processed food, etc.)
And, perhaps most importantly, I will be kind to myself. As I stated before, we are all busy! And we are all doing the very best we can, with the information we have, to make the best possible decisions for our families at any given time. Am I right? My mental health is important to me and if I’m going to be a grouch to my kids because I’m freaking out about what to feed them and what they’re eating then that sort of defeats the purpose of trying to provide a better life for my family. With that being said, if I need to employ convenient, processed foods to help me out in a moment of panic and desperation, then I will do that. But you can be sure I will be trying to pick the items with the least amount of sugar and highest amount of quality, whole-food, ingredients. Hey, nobody is perfect, especially not me. Our lives are a work in progress! Any step we take in the direction to live healthier lives is a great step. What’s the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”?
We are well aware that we don't have all the answers (yet), but one thing we do know is that living healthier lives and creating stronger bodies is determined by what we eat and how we move. Please, join us in the fight against childhood obesity.
Here are some great resources to get you started on your journey:
How to Break Sugar Addiction: 7 Steps To Help You Stop Eating Sugar (5:43) Here’s a great video saying where the science is pointing NOW - that’s not to say this information can’t change in the future.
Fooducate Blog: This blog helps its readers by educating. Blog entries give objective recommendations and discuss the best choices in supermarkets today.
Small Bites Blog: This blog focuses on debunking “healthy eating” myths and educating readers on “food politics, nutrition policy, and deceptive food industry marketing tactics”. The author, Andy Ballatti, is a “Registered Dietitian who approaches nutrition from a whole-foods, plant-centric framework.”
HOW to Quit Sugar and Unhealthy Habits - (15:00) The key to quitting sugar is understanding the 5 things in your way: Your brain, environment, habits, gut and (maybe) friends.
Real Mom Nutrition Blog: Sally is a real mom (and registered dietician) who is keeping it real. This is a no-judgement space on the web where you can get some great information and recipes for your family. Sally has a sweet tooth and you will find some recipes here that include sugar, but Sally is heading us in the right direction and this blog could be a great way to help you phase into a healthier lifestyle.
Disclaimer: We are not doctors or nutritionists. We are parents and teachers. The content you will find on this blog is purely for informational purposes and does not constitute as medical advice. Always consult your doctor, dietician, or other health professional with your concerns.