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The Role of Parents in Childhood Obesity

July 14, 2010

Harvest: Enormous Cucumber

Nancy Churnin of the Dallas Morning News recently interviewed three doctors about keeping kids healthy, and the very first suggestion she lists concerns childhood obesity:  Get an early start. For instance, high fructose corn syrup should be a no-no, right from the beginning. She passes on some interesting information from Dr. Chris Straughn of Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas, who says,

[… A] March study published in Pediatrics finds that children who eat meals regularly with their family, get adequate sleep and limit their television time to no more than two hours per day had a 40 percent reduction in obesity compared to kids who had none of these routines.

We just got through a holiday, and more are on the way. There are always more holidays. In every culture, for most people, the appropriate method of celebrating any holiday is to eat a lot, especially if the food is richer and sweeter than the everyday fare. In Dr. Pretlow’s presentation “What’s Really Causing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic? What Kids Say” please take a look at Slide 22 (and listen too).

It’s just a shame that young people come to fear and dread the holidays. A major project we could be working on is the exclusion of junk food from festivals. There could be a candy-free Easter. There could be a candy-free Halloween. What we really need is some new ways of celebrating holidays.

Nobody suggests that we climb onto a bandwagon with a “Blame the Parents” banner waving in the breeze. At the same time, parents do control the menu. No, not always, not exclusively, and not for as long as we’d like. Except for someplace like a remote farm, parents rarely have total control.

But — and it’s a big but — as parents, we have more control than anybody else. To relinquish that control at home is to do the kids a disservice. Especially when the kids are too small and helpless to go anyplace on their own. What, a two-year-old is going to jump in the car and drive down to the convenience store? If the only thing we make available to a child is real food, it will be eaten. When America’s pioneers lived in sod huts on the prairie, how many kids starved to death because they were holding out for a bag of jalapeno-pineapple double-fried pork rinds?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “5 ways parents can keep their kids well,” Dallas Morning News, 05/05/10
Source: “What’s Really Causing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic? What Kids Say,” Weigh2Rock
Image by woodleywonderworks, used under its Creative Commons license.


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