It's a country known for fresh salads, heavy use of heart-healthy olive oil, luscious fields filled with produce that defy the history of dry, parched lands, and workers who farm the land with creativity and a solid work ethic. Well that WAS the description of Israel of old. Israelis of recent years have replaced those habits with an incessant love of fast food and a heavy handed link to electronics and more sedentary living. The result? An obesity crisis among the young, that is rivaling the current US childhood obesity epidemic.
Large sprawling supermarkets have replaced small markets offering fresh food. Many Israeli schools have vending machines similar to those found in the US - chock full of soda and high calorie drinks and high fat/high sugar snacks. Their current statistics according to one survey showcase a teen population with a 12.8% rate of being overweight, while 5.7% of teens are outright obese. Experts there point fingers at parents and suggest that the quality and quantity of food being served in a typical home is problematic. These experts feel quite strongly that the home environment needs to set the tone for daily food consumption. Israel is a very child centered society according to one expert and parents have unfortunately become too permissive and too passive when it comes to home nutrition.
On the other hand experts offer that parents who feel a child has eaten enough, even as the child says that he (she) is still hungry, should not give in and give them more food - nor should they refuse to give them food. They should place the dilemma on the child. Say to the child, "Well if you are still hungry choose what you want," handing the decision to the child. But there shouldn't then be a lot of junk food or poor quality food choices for the child to turn to. There should be abundant fruit, vegetables and healthy small portion options like garbanzo beans and hard boiled eggs.
Some parents say that their kids only want the sugary snacks and fast foods. Experts say that's why it's so important to make conscious menu planning and food choices from birth, a home priority. The Israeli Health Ministry is heavily promoting breast feeding and suggesting that childhood weight control is an important benefit of breastfeeding. The ministry is also taking a page from some recent US studies that suggest emphasizing family meal-time, which not only helps with better eating habits but also seems to show a correlation to less risky behavior (among teens who eat family meals with some regularity). There is also a move to encourage more physical activity at school and to give a seal of approval to schools that make an effort to control the vending machine contents, while encouraging fitness activities among kids.
Published On: June 29, 2010