Eating healthy has become old fashioned for many children and teens nowadays. Vegetables and fruits have been replaced by chips and candy bars. Long hours of television, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits are some of the many factors contributing to the growing problem of childhood obesity in the United States. This rising epidemic is risking the health and well being of todays youth.
According to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 27% of all the kids that start pre Kindergarten are already overweight. Also, the National Center for Health Statistics published a study that says that 17% of children and adolescents 2-19 in the United States are overweight. That number represents over 12.5 million youngsters. In fact, experts at the University of Michigan believe that “obesity is common enough among children that we can consider it an epidemic.”
However, consuming healthy food could be a challenge for young people. There is no easier way to tackle hunger than by grabbing a 25-cent bag of chips from the corner store or a fatty burger from the popular dollar menu, full of cheap fries and sugar filled ice cream cones. The food is not only cheap, but also tasty, and can fill you quickly and inexpensively. On the other hand, healthy eating could be an expensive deal. Not too many children can afford to pay $4.95 daily for a white meat wrap. Or to pay $9.99 for a pound of low sodium Boars Head turkey breast at the local supermarket.
Concerned about childhood obesity, the government and educational organizations are trying to cut down on the unhealthy snacks sold to students in public schools. In New York City the Department of Education “follows healthy food guidelines in the development of meals for the school breakfast and lunch programs and is in the process of raising the nutritional quality of food served to New York City students”.
Other organizations around the country will stop at nothing to prevent or halt childhood obesity. They will even bribe. In Arizona, a sponsor of a healthy bill offered $50,000 to high schools that get rid of sugary snack and drinks. According to an article published in the Arizona Republic newspaper, 50 schools would get the reward for clearing up the goodies from their cafeteria.
But many will agree that schools cannot do it all alone. One of the biggest hardships for kids nowadays is resisting all the TV ads directed to them. Junk food is all around, and children can hardly escape the temptation. According to the organization Commonsense Media, kids see one food commercial every five minutes during Saturday morning cartoons, most of them announcing foods high in fat, sugar, and calories. Large companies such as Pepsi, Trix, and Kellogs spend millions of dollars advertising to kids.
Childhood obesity has serious consequences. As said by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDKN) obesity impacts the health of youngsters in many different aspects. Some of the health consequences involve high blood pressure, breathing and sleep complications, hip problems and poor self-esteem and depression. The Center for Diseases Control sustains that “since 1980 obesity rates have doubled among children and tripled among adolescents”, costing hospitals millions of dollars. The picture gets more complicated, since statistics show that 40% of overweight children turn to be overweight adults.
In the past 20 years there has been a great increase in obesity in the United States. If kids and teens want to stay healthy and fit, there are recommended amounts of vegetables to be digested each day. According to Dr. Vincent Iannelli, girls ages 9-13 should have at least 2 cups of vegetables each day, boys of the same ages should consume at least 2 ••• cups of vegetables a day. Girls ages 14-18 years old should have 2 ••• cups of vegetables a day as well. You should also exercise regularly. It is suggested that if you are not fond of exercise, you work with a friend to make it enjoyable. Even just being outside daily for an hour can help kids in shape… and healthy.
In spite the efforts of the schools, and other organizations, nobody can force children and adolescents today to eat healthy, only they and their parents can make a decision about it. US families hold the key to solving this epidemic, preventing this problem from growing any larger.