Is your child at risk for childhood obesity?

Deanne Stein Health Guide April 02, 2008
  • My son is starving. No, I'm feeding him, what kind of mother do you think I am? He's starving at school and when he gets home from school. I figured it was because he didn't care for the cafeteria food. Which, on some days, who would--especially when I see items on the menu like Taco Boat. Hmm...sounds good huh? But, one day, I was doing a story at the school board on an entirely different issue and while there I asked about the lunches at the middle schools. They told me that my son probably is still hungry because the portion sizes were reduced. I have volunteered at the school many times during lunch and I never thought the portion sizes were especially big to begin with, especially for growing boys. But, nevertheless, the board told me the state required the change in response to the child obesity epidemic.

     

    Now, I'm not quoting from some scientific study here, this is my own opinion: I don't believe kids are becoming obese because they are eating all of their school lunches. There, I said it. I think it's a lack of activity and what they are eating OUTSIDE of school. If the schools are feeding our children a well-balanced meal like they say they are, obesity shouldn't be a problem. But, I see why the state is stepping in. Obesity is a major problem among children in this country.

     

    Here are the facts. In 2004, over 9 million children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 were considered overweight. At this rate, the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that by 2010, 20 percent of children in the U.S. will be obese. In turn, overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight adults. I'm no math wiz, but 70 percent? Wow, that's more than half of the overweight kids out there. Something needs to be done because obesity is a major risk factor linked to cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of Americans.

     

    Experts agree that increasing physical activity can help combat childhood obesity. So why aren't we doing that? According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a decline in physical activity has contributed to the obesity rate in children. In fact, 92 percent of elementary schools don't provide daily PE classes that meet the national goals and barely a quarter of high school students take daily PE classes. But some lawmakers hope to change that.

     

    The Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act (FIT Kids Act) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in July of 2007. If enacted, the FIT Kids Act would amend the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act to require all schools, districts and states to include the quantity and quality of PE in the "report cards" sent to parents. It would encourage schools to work towards the national goal of 150 minutes of PE per week for elementary school students and 225 minutes per week for students in middle and high schools. It would also ensure that kids get the support they need to be active and make healthy food choices.

  • I'm lucky in that my son is already active. He plays sports and is constantly running around with other boys in the neighborhood. They ride bikes and play basketball. But for some parents whose kids aren't interested in those activities, I can see where it would be difficult to get them off the couches. The interest in video games doesn't help either. My son tells me he rarely sees some friends after school because they go straight home to play games for hours. He told me that many of his friends pull all-nighters on weekends playing these games online with other gamers. And this is just a small group here in my town--I can't imagine what it's like across the nation. If every community has a group of kids like this, the number of inactive kids would sky rocket!

     

    So, I guess I do understand the smaller portion sizes at school. They hope to teach kids to eat smaller portions, not just at school, but at home too. I just make sure I have healthy snacks for my son when he gets home, like fruits and raw vegetables. As long as I don't buy or keep junk food in the house, we won't eat it. And, by the way, a Taco Boat is just a taco salad on a bed of tortilla chips.