Kids’ Foods Are Everyone’s Responsibility

Articles
March 03, 2010

When we look at obese children – and there are far too many in that condition – can we imagine they’ll grow into the Olympic athletes that just graced the world with indelible performances?

When we look at obese children – and there are far too many in that condition – can we imagine they’ll grow into the Olympic athletes that just graced the world with indelible performances? Or do we envision a future filled with Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other health challenges?

Nature helps many children grow out of their initial chunkiness. But only if they and their families adopt smarter, more disciplined ways to eat will they continue to be healthier and have the sustenance they need to perform well academically, socially, creatively and athletically every day.

Let’s call 2010 the time when children and their parents vow to do better, vow to wean off much of the salts, fats and sugars that so laden kids’ foods today, vow to eat more naturally, and call on the makers of kids’ foods to be more responsible in what they proffer at the supermarket shelf and in vending machines. 

In our opinion at The Lempert Report, there’s a big difference between foods that are positioned as fun to eat (often with high amounts of salts, fats and sugars), and nutrient-rich foods that may be less ‘tasty’ but are more healthful. 

If, as Michelle Obama says, it is possible to turn the obesity problem around in one generation, it will not happen by government mandate alone. Revamps of school cafeteria menus and less availability of sugary soft drinks and candy in vending machines are part of the solution. 

A bigger part of a fitter young America: The food-making industry needs to accepts its responsibility to lessen the amounts of salts, fats and sugars in its brands of cereals, snacks, beverages and other foods marketed to kids. Brands should be more consistent in their adults’ and kids’ versions of packaged products, even if they don’t taste as ‘charged up.’ We believe kids could easily develop a more natural taste palate once they start to eat less of the laden foods.

There’s much at stake. The March issue of the Pediatrics journal published two studies pointing to greater risk for obesity among minority children, according to an account by The Associated Press in the Houston Chronicle.  One study by the University of North Carolina suggests that “three-year-olds with inflammation might already have artery changes that could make them prone to later heart problems, although that needs to be examined in future research.” A separate study done at Harvard Medical School identified numerous risk factors for obesity (many diet and sleep related), and concluded “minorities were at higher risk than whites for nearly every one.” The account further cited government data, noting that 20% of black and Hispanic children ages 2 to 19 are obese versus 15% of whites.