The current childhood obesity epidemic is an ongoing concern for parents and retailers alike.
The current childhood obesity epidemic is an ongoing concern for parents and retailers alike. In the U.S., 17% percent of adolescents age 12 to 19 are overweight, as are 19% of children age 6 to 11. The number of overweight or obese jumps to an alarming 66.3% for those age 20 years and over.
Children that are overweight or obese are more likely to become overweight or obese adults. That’s why the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion is launching MyPyramid for Preschoolers, a program designed to foster healthy behaviors in young children.
Dr. Trish Britten, lead nutritionist for the preschooler program, says that tailoring USDA nutrition guidelines to meet the needs of young children is a natural evolution of MyPyramid. By speaking to this specific audience, the program has the ability to address concerns that are unique to preschool parents.
“Communicating nutritional concepts at an early age is crucial,” says Britten. “This program supplies us with the ability to reach young people while their eating habits and behaviors are still forming.”
At the heart of the preschool MyPyramid.gov section is a customized eating plan that can be modified for a child’s age, gender and physical activity level. Kids can assist their parents in printing out a personalized chart with their individual plan while learning about meals and snack patterns. They can also print out a customized chart to track growth in terms of Body Mass Index and Height-For-Age.
Other useful features of the preschool edition include a bevy of information on food safety, both general and specific to young children, a section on the development of healthy eating habits, with topics ranging from how to help children know when they’ve had enough to eat to the importance of offering a variety of foods, and a physical activity section with lists of age-appropriate activities. All sections stress the need for parents to serve as role models.
“Parents are the most important influence in their preschooler’s life,” says Britten. “But retailers can help parents learn to be better role models by giving them the tools they need to send clear, consistent messages about health and nutrition.”
Retail involvement with MyPyramid has skyrocketed since the introduction of the USDA Corporate Challenge this summer. The program, which works with the food industry to aid consumers in making healthier decisions, is another fantastic way to connect with preschool parents and make a difference.
“By partnering with MyPyramid, the most trusted source of nutritional info in the U.S., companies can really make an impact,” says Dr. Brian Wansink, Executive Director for the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.
USDA dietary guidelines were first published in 1980, and are revised every five years with the goal of providing science-based advice to help promote health and lessen the risk of chronic diseases through nutrition and exercise. The sixth edition of MyPyramid launched in 2005, placing a stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity. The next edition will be released in 2010.
There have been over 4 billion hits to the MyPyramid.gov website since its launch in 2005, with about 750,000 page views to the MyPyramid Planner each day, and about 250,000 daily page views to the MyPyramid Tracker. More than half of site users say that the information on MyPyramid.gov has prompted them to take some action related to their health. Britten hopes this same enthusiasm will translate from retailers to preschool parents and their children.
“I want every preschool parent in America to go to this site, find the information they need to address their issue or problem, be comforted in knowing that they are not alone, and be able to do something about it,” she says.
To explore the Preschool MyPyramid section or sign up for the USDA Corporate Challenge, go to www.mypyramid.gov.
*Since this article was written, the MyPyramid website has changed to http://www.choosemyplate.gov/.