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Feature Articles: Children


Parents: Feed Your Children Well to Prevent Chronic Disease

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist in Barton County
University of Missouri Extension


In many ways, children are healthier than they used to be. There is lower incidence of infant mortality and fewer deficiency diseases in children. A major threat to the health of children now is the risk of becoming overweight. In the past 30 years, overweight has doubled among 2-5 year olds and tripled among 6-11 year olds. Some may think that pudgy cheeks on little children are cute but the truth of the matter is that there are health consequences for overweight children. Overweight can put children at risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis. In addition, as a result of being overweight, many children experience low self-esteem and poor body image.

According to an American Dietetic Association summary of a study funded by the Gerber Company, infants and children ages 4 months to 2 years are consuming low nutrient- dense foods. The study found that 1/3 of children under the age of two do not consume fruits and vegetables daily; that French fries are the most common vegetable eaten by children over 15 months of age; more than 60% of one year olds have dessert or candy at least once a day; and 30-40% of children over the age of 15 months have a sugary fruit drink every day.

In another study published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine researchers evaluated best methods for helping middle school children adopt healthy behaviors. They found that it was easier to get boys than girls to increase physical activity in community based programs. The community-based nutrition and physical activities did not result in significant eating behavior changes in the youths that participated. The study concluded that parents play the primary role in developing and changing the eating habits of their children.

What’s a busy parent to do? First, if you only have time for fast food, make milk the beverage of your choice. Choose fruit if it is available. Have fruit available as a snack at home. Have a refrigerator box of snacks with healthy choices such as string cheese, fresh vegetables and 100% juice. Offer lean meats and beans. Many children and teens will balk at having beans for dinner but would eat a healthy bean burrito. Children are more likely to consume foods they have helped plan and prepare. Involve them in the food shopping and preparation and you will be on your way to establishing a healthy habits for a lifetime.



Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009








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