It’s no secret that there’s an obesity epidemic in this country. In fact, in the past 30 years the number of obese individuals has tripled. And in a time when our nation is desperately trying to take control of the rising cost of healthcare, the obesity epidemic has already cost the US $150 million. And statistics show that obese children are much more likely to grow up to be obese adults. So it’s with open arms that the wellness community has welcomed the Let’s Move Campaign, the First Lady’s initiative to combat childhood obesity.
The Let’s Move Campaign Launched
The Let’s Move Campaign launched last month with these words from Michelle Obama, “The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake.”
Key Components of the Let’s Move Campaign
1. Making Healthy Choices
2. Healthier Food in Schools
Access to Healthy Affordable Foods
Increased Physical Education
Though broad in nature, the tenets of the campaign are right on target. So what does this mean for nutrition professionals, especially those focused on the health and wellness of children? Well, the folks over at The American Dietetics Association (ADA) applauded the First Lady’s campaign. According to registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association President Jessie M. Pavlinac, “Few if any issues matter more than the health of our nation’s children. The American Dietetic Association has long held that obesity is a complicated issue that requires the combined involvement of families, schools, government, communities and health professionals such as registered dietitians to address this national health crisis.”
Nutrition Starts in Schools
Nutrition in schools is one of the main tenets of the program and should be one of the top priorities for nutrition professionals. Kids spend a huge portion of their day at school, so it’s important for them to have healthy nutritional options from which to choose. For nutrition professionals, it starts by strengthening school nutrition programs. First off, we need The Child Nutrition and WIC Act of 2004 reauthorized. It expired on September 30, 2009, according to the School Nutrition Association, but the issue has been pushed to the back burner as a result of other legislative priorities, including healthcare reform and the war in Afghanistan.
Kids need to have more fresh produce available in the cafeteria with less fatty fried foods, processed meats, and snack foods. Soda and candy should not be an option for kids during the school day because it does nothing but promote highs and lows in kids that are already vulnerable to mood swings. Additionally, programs like Edible Schoolyard put kids in touch with the foods that they eat by allowing them to grow their own foods at school. School should be a place where kids have access to inexpensive healthy foods.
Encourage Involvement in Extracurricular Activities
Kids didn’t used to deal with such weight problems because they were much more active. When I was a child, I played outside until the sun went down or it was time for dinner. I watched television a few hours a week and had no interest in it otherwise. But times have changed. Television, video games, cell phones, and computers have all led to the growth of the couch potato and with it, obesity amongst kids. It’s important that kids are active and choose activities and sports that they find exciting rather than sitting at home watching television. Urge parents to limit television and overall electronic time. Have kids join a sports team, outdoors club, or dance class. The activity isn’t so important, what’s important is that kids are active.
Teach Kids Healthy Eating Habits at Home
Encourage kids to pack their own lunches so that they aren’t at the whim of the cafeteria for their nutrition, especially if their cafeteria lacks healthy choices. Choose whole foods instead of anything processed like local and organic fruits and vegetables, homemade trail mix, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and sandwiches made with natural peanut butter and honey. The choices are limitless, but the key is to choose foods that are as minimally processed as possible so that the nutrition hasn’t been striped from the foods. Breakfast is also important, because it starts their metabolism off early in the day. Consider rolled oats with honey, natural peanut butter, fruits, and nuts or granola with yogurt and fruit. With so many delicious healthy choices out there, choosing junk becomes less and less appealing. But the key for nutrition professionals is educating kids so that they can make healthy choices on their own.