I just read an article that included the following statistics about childhood obesity:

  • The rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. has more than tripled in the past 30 years, and that’s across the board with regard to age, gender, race, ethnic background and socioeconomic status.
  • The childhood obesity rate does vary widely, however, by geographical region, although with a few anomalies. The Southeast is home to the highest proportion of obese kids, with Mississippi leading the nation in rates of childhood overweight (44.5 percent) and obesity (21.9 percent). Kids in Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia were twice as likely to be obese as those in Oregon. Then again, so were kids in Kansas and Illinois.
  • Western region kids were, overall, the slenderest, Oregon having the fewest obese children at 9.6 percent, and Utah the fewest overweight kids at 23.1 percent. But even as the childhood obesity rate fell by 32 percent in Oregon between 2003 and 2007, it rose by more than 40 percent in Arizona and Colorado.
  • Nationwide over that four-year period, obesity among all Americans aged 10 to 17 increased by 10 percent and among girls by 18 percent.
  • A separate study of American children ages 2 to 19, published in the Journal of Pediatrics in March, found that 7.3 percent of boys and 5.5 percent of girls are now “extremely obese.” That’s right: extremely.

These statistics are very disturbing and sad!  Every time I read about childhood obesity, I get fired up and angry at parents.  Parents, you guys are the ones that buy the groceries and make the rules.  Have you scanned the pantry lately to see what kind of snacks and beverages are available to your kids?  Have you really thought about the foods that you buy and prepare for your kids?  Do you buy those foods because they’re healthy or because they’re easy and convenient?  Do you monitor the amount of time that your kids spend watching TV, playing video games or being inactive? 

I don’t have kids, but I’ve spent a lot of time with them.  I have five nephews and a niece that I’ve hung out with for the last 19 years, and I’ve done a lot of babysitting in my 29 years.  Kids are not moving anymore!  They are sitting in front of the TV or computer or Wii for hours and hours and hours, accomplishing very little.  And let me tell you what I’ve seen kids consume regularly, in the past and recently:  pop tarts, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, candy bars, green beans, white rice, cake, popsicles, fruit rollups, gushers, spaghetti o’s, dry cheerios, granola bars, s’mores, pizza, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, sodas, kool-aid, sugar free crystal light, gatorade, juice boxes and my list could go on forever.  Does any of that sound familiar?  Do you think any of these items are healthy??  Here is the breakdown of my list:

If I see another kid eat a Pop Tart I’m going to scream out loud!!!  Pop Tarts are one of the WORST foods you can feed your kids.  Do you know that Pop Tarts have 50+ ingredients in them?  SERIOUSLY??  It takes fifty ingredients to make a pastry with some jam inside of it??  There is zero nutrition in Pop Tarts!  They are full of chemicals, preservatives, sugar and sodium, plus a sprinkle of fat and protein.  I wouldn’t feed my dog a Pop Tart!!

MOST hot dogs that I’ve ever seen are made from the byproducts of the meat instead of the lean high quality meat from the animal.  Hot dogs are full of sodium and preservatives like sodium nitrates/nitrites.  These preservatives have been linked to a variety of cancers and brain tumors.

Macaroni and cheese is easy and cheap, but it doesn’t provide a lot of nutrients for your kids.  If you’re using real natural cheddar and real butter, then it wouldn’t be the worst food ever.  But what about all of those carbs your kids are getting from the noodles?  Check out my Carb Cycle blog for more information and to see what’s happening with your kid’s bodies.

Chicken nuggets are packaged, which means they are loaded with sodium and preservatives.  If you are cutting up your own chicken, slightly breading it and cooking it in the skillet, then it won’t be a bad choice.  But how many of you parents are doing that?  Please give your kids the best meats available and prepare them yourself!

I don’t even have to tell you about candy bars, fruit rollups, gushers, popsicles, cake, s’mores, sodas, gatorade, kool-aid, and any other processed sugary snacks and drinks.  I’ve heard of parents using these items as rewards for good behavior.  REWARDS??  Please reward your kids in healthy ways like taking them to the park or playing with them in the backyard.

It’s time to go from this:

To this:

Green beans and white rice aren’t the worst possible food choices, but they certainly aren’t the best.  White rice is nothing but carbs and green beans aren’t nutritionally dense.  If you want your kids to have carbs, I’d prefer that you give them a small portion of a baked sweet potato.  Skip the green beans and go for a nutritionally dense green veggie like broccoli or spinach.

Be careful with dry cereal and granola bars.  Most of them are extremely processed and are full of chemicals and ingredients that I’ve never heard of.  Please buy cereals and bars that have very few ingredients and are in their rawest form.  You’ll be doing your kids a favor!

Spaghetti O’s are terrible!  They are packaged, which again means they are loaded with sodium, preservatives and chemicals.  Get those cans out of your pantry!

Pizza and PB & J sandwiches can be bad, but they can be good.  It depends how you make them.  A really thin crust pizza that’s covered with colorful veggies, tomato sauce, some natural mozzarella cheese and some healthy, lean meat, will taste great to your kids, plus they will be getting lots of good nutrients.  A PB & J sandwich should be made on minimally processed bread with natural peanut butter and minimally processed jelly.  It will be a better option than most things on my list!

I don’t recommend sugar free drinks and foods for kids, especially.  When they get to be 18, then they can pick their poison – sugar or sugar free.  I’m convinced that artificial sweeteners wreak havoc in your body, even if it doesn’t show up until years later.

Juice is fine as long as it’s 100% natural juice, and it’s not full of other ingredients.  Do remember that juice contains natural sugar, so limit the amount that your kids consume.  Capri suns and most juice boxes are full of everything but juice.

Parents, I challenge you to take a stand and do what’s right for your kids! Please educate them and encourage them to move and eat healthy foods.  It’s not a perfect world and kids will be kids.  They’re going to play video games and they’re going to have sugar here and there, but at least limit it to the best of your ability.  I know several parents that have strict rules about “technology time” and healthy eating.  If they can make it work, I know that you can make it work!  The ball is in your court!  What are you going to do with it?  Will YOUR kids become a part of the national childhood obesity statistics?