Obesity epidemic in the US: Teaching kids about food

One third of Americans are overweight and nearly a third of people under 20 are obese. We asked our Zintro experts to discuss the current leading ideas, approaches, or policies that are being developed to address the obesity epidemic in the US.

Ann Baker, a holistic nutrition therapy coach, thinks that one solution is to teach kids in elementary school about whole food nutrition; where food comes from and is grown; and create school gardens and cooking classes. “Removing soda from schools is key, but so is re-vamping the school lunch program on a national level. Jamie Oliver has the right idea about the kinds of real food kids should eat,” she points out. “We need to incentivize schools to make meal program and educational changes to promote whole foods and healthy lifestyles. Schools that do this should get more federal dollars than those that don’t.

Baker has other ideas about how education around food choices and policies should go together:

  • Schools should bring back physical education as a mandatory class, every day in schools.
  • Don’t allow food stamps to be used for anything but fresh produce and fresh meats, and unprocessed cheeses.
  • From a health policy standpoint, allow insurance reimbursement for nutritional counseling for early prevention.
  • Follow a functional medicine and nutritional approach to health instead of the drug and surgery sick care model.

Dr. Mitchell Kershner, a holistic health educator, says that when a child is obese for a period of time the risk for serious chronic health issues increases accordingly. “Concerns in this area are going to present themselves with diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, increased risk for auto immune deficiencies, and certain cancers,” says Kershner. “One idea that only requires minimal application in the home starts with using smaller plates when serving meals. It has been shown that if a child sees a plate filled even though the plate is smaller, they tend to think they are getting more food. Another idea is to supply smaller portions. If seconds are desired, make the second portion considerably smaller with permission to get a third if necessary. Usually by that point the brain has received the message that the hunger signal has been satiated.”
Kershner says an additional idea that requires more discipline is to cut out soda, high sugar soft drink, and refined fruit juices. “The incline consumption of these types of beverages have substantially replaced other liquids, namely water, ice tea, and even natural juices. A bottle of soda water or seltzer and a jar of wholesome juice combined in an adequate ratio satisfies the same craving without all the added sugar or sugar replacement sweeteners,” he says.

Joanna C, a nutrition coach, says that the US government is still subsidizing food companies, wheat growers, and corn growers so fast food and processed foods end up being easier to purchase than real food and real produce. “This is where things need to change,” she says. “Parents and children need to eat real food, not packaged or processed foods. Parents need to learn how to cook and help children grow vegetables and teach them how to cook. We also need to build in exercise and sports into our every day scenarios.

By Maureen Aylward

Zintro, Inc

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