NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Winning the Obesity Battle?

Winning the Obesity Battle?


          News reports on Americans and their weight are usually not good news.   A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that made the news concluded that on an average day, U.S. adults get roughly 11 percent of their calories from fast food.   The good news is that is down from earlier reports that showed a higher percentage of 13% of our calories coming from fast food.  Eating fast food frequently has been linked to America’s increasing rate of obesity.

          For the latest study, approximately 11,000 adults were asked to record what they had eaten and drank over the previous 24 hours.  The study found that:

          -  Young adults eat more fast food than their elders; 15 percent of calories for ages 20 to 39 and dropping to 6 percent for those 60 and older. 

           The study didn't include the total number of fast-food calories, just the percentage. Previous government research suggests that the average U.S. adult each day consumes about 270 calories of fast food — the equivalent of a small McDonald's hamburger and a few fries.

          Depending on which statistics you review, the number of obese children and adolescents in the U.S. has tripled or quadrupled in the past four decades.  Almost one in two of our children are either overweight or obese. Any way you look at it, the numbers are scary.

          Standardized growth charts plot height and weight of boys and girls at different ages and are valuable in the story they tell over time. The trend of a child’s weight and height are more important than where specific values fall at a single point in time.  Concerns arise when a child’s body mass index (BMI) falls at or above the 85th percentile. Children between the 85th and 94th percentile are considered overweight. Children at or above the 95th percentile are considered obese.  Only when a child’s BMI is at or above the designated criteria on two or more occasions would he or she be considered to meet that designation.

          As a parent, you are the primary role model for your child. Your behaviors have a direct impact on your children.  Researchers have found that when both parents are physically active, the child is six times more likely to be physically active.  If one parent habitually eats high fat food, the child is twice as likely to be obese.  If both parents eat high fat foods, the child is three to six times more likely to be obese. (Understanding Childhood Obesity Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1999)          

          Healthy eating and physical activity are good lifestyle habits for the entire family. Children who learn the value of exercise and the how-to of choosing healthy snacks and meals are more likely to continue such habits throughout their lives.

          Some strategies for eating well include:

          - Remove temptation - Keep very few high-fat, high- calorie snack foods in the house. Instead, stock up on nutritious/healthy snacks, such as pretzels, nuts, fresh fruit, carrots, bagels, and air-popped popcorn. Research has shown that children eat what is available and perceived as most convenient.  Keep the healthier snack alternatives, such as fruits and vegetables, readily available on the counter or easily visible in the refrigerator. Put cookies and chips in less accessible spots and save for “special” occasions.

          Help you child know when they are full - Much of today’s eating is in response to “emotional” hunger such as stress, anxiety, boredom, loneliness, and depression, rather than physical hunger. You can help your child differentiate “hunger cues” and “non-hunger cues” by asking if she or he is really hungry before automatically providing a snack.

          Offer regular meals and snacks - Missing meals frequently leads to unplanned snacking and over-eating. Children eat smaller por­tions, but more frequently. Studies indicate that children who eat regu­lar meals control their weight more successfully. Planned snacks also help teach healthy eating habits.

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