We all should be alarmed about the increasing numbers of obese children in our community. According to The American Obesity Association, 30 percent of kids ages 6-11 are overweight and 15 percent are obese, setting them up for increased risk for diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.
The numbers have increased by more than 120 percent among African Americans as compared to 50 percent among Whites within a decade. Likely if this continues our youth will be the first in the nation's history not to live longer than their parents.
What is at the root of the problem? There are several root causes. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have conducted studies showing increase in consumption of soda and sugar-sweetened beverages as one reason. Other causes include lack of physical activity, lack of parental guidance, easily accessible vending machines in schools and, of course, eating too much fast food.
Despite these facts, we are not powerless. What can we do?
1) We can make sure our children eat a nutritious breakfast before going to school so their bodies are not in starvation mode, making them more prone to eat junk.
2) We can have them pack a lunch from home.
3) We can have them engage in at least 1 hour of physical activity daily.
4) We can be role models for our children, teaching them healthy eating habits by the way we eat and the way we live.
Very often, unhealthy eating habits are passed down generation to generation. However, this generation is in much more trouble than any of us could have predicted and thus cannot afford not to make changes. So our overall goal should be to help the whole family stop, think and really focus on making healthy changes to eating and activity habits that will last for a lifetime!
Makeisha Lee is a health and nutrition consultant