For the first time in history, experts tell us the next generation of U.S. children will not live longer than their parents, in part because of the nationwide prevalence of obesity. Two-thirds of American adults and a third of our children and adolescents are overweight or obese, contributing to a rise in heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes—but recently more than a dozen major food companies took a step in the right direction.
As part of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, 16 food and beverage manufacturers including Campbell Soup Co., Kraft Foods Inc., Nestlé USA, Coca-Cola and Pepsi pledged to remove 1.5 trillion calories from the market by 2015, and in fact they’ve already cut 6.4 trillion calories (mainly from sugary beverages, cereals and snacks).
The reduction in calories works out to about 80 fewer calories per person every day, according to Shu Wen Ng, an assistant professor of nutrition with the University of North Carolina and one of the researchers involved with analyzing the companies’ efforts. But, she and other experts point out that healthy weight management goes beyond just counting calories, and that more focus should be placed on evaluating the quality of those calories.
Because studies have shown a balanced gut (meaning the right amount of good bacteria vs. harmful bacteria) supports weight loss and long-term weight management, it is important to eat foods that promote that balance. Here are three simple ways to get started!
- Eat more healthy fats, especially those high in Omega-3
- Eat “living foods” every day to help increase your good gut bacteria (fermented foods, non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits)
- Eat plenty of protein at every meal and snack
In the last thirty years childhood obesity has more than doubled among U.S. children (ages 6–11) and quadrupled in adolescents (ages 12–19), putting American youth at greater risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even stroke as they grow older. Because September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, here are two new studies spotlighting the importance of promoting good nutrition and lifestyle habits—plus several links to smart and simple tips for raising healthy kids!
Little Couch Potatoes Grow Up to Be Big Couch Potatoes
Researchers at University College London recently wrapped up a decades-long study in which they found that children who spend a lot of time sitting in front of the TV tend to become adults who spend a lot of time sitting in front of the TV—a behavior known to contribute to obesity and obesity-related disease. After monitoring the viewing habits of more than 9,800 participants, they found that nearly 83 percent of 40-year-olds who watch more than three hours of TV daily had similar habits at age 10. This prompted experts to stress the importance of teaching kids about the benefits of physical activity for a healthy weight and overall wellness.
Learning to Like Certain Foods Starts Early
A new series of nutritional studies suggests childhood eating habits form during infancy, and parents should be aware that taste preferences for certain foods can take root even before little ones start walking. The combined results of more than 10 studies, published this month in the journal Pediatrics, show that eating patterns are set early in life—making it even more important for parents to promote healthy foods sooner rather than later. They recommend getting babies interested in fruit and vegetables by late infancy (between 10 and 12 months) and encourage parents to keep trying even when kids spit out certain foods, as repeated exposure often increases acceptance.
Parents and family members can check out our previous blogs for tips and advice on children’s health and nutrition: