The increasing number of obese parents, technology, children having no supervision after school, and the unhealthy content of school lunches are to blame for the increasing number of overweight kids in the United States. A majority of the information used in writing this paper came from obesity source books, magazine articles, and websites devoted to helping children lose weight. Decades ago children would play tag, ride bikes, and participate in other outdoor after school activities following a nutritious snack prepared for them by one of their parents.
Today, most children come home to an empty house, snack on any junk they can find, and watch television or play video games until their parents get home hours later. With no supervision, who can blame them? The foods offered at schools have changed as well. Candy, chips, and soda are a favorite of most children when eating their school lunch. Vending machines are now in most cafeterias today too, making it even easier for children to snack before and after lunch.
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America is one of the most overweight populations in the world, and we all wonder why. The following paper examines the root causes of this public health problem, answers the question of “why”, and offers possible solutions, to this crisis. Society as a whole is more overweight than ever before, causing their poor eating and exercising habits to be passed down onto their children.
Of course genetics plays a part in some cases of obesity children, but for the most part, it is really more an issue of the habits that kids pick up from their parents. If both parents are obese, their child has an 80% chance of being obese, if one parent is obese, their child has a 40% chance of being obese, and if neither parent is obese, their child has only a 5% chance of being obese” (Bray 68). Shared family behaviors such as eating and activity habits influence a childs body weight. When a child sees their mom or dad eating unhealthy foods all the time, and snacking throughout the day, that child will get used to that eating pattern and follow in the footsteps of their parents.
Overweight parents also tend to cook high calorie foods and order out more than thinner parents. This is bad because not only does that child eat foods high in fat throughout their whole childhood, but they also pick up the high-fat style of cooking as well. If a parent is overweight, it might not be as huge of a priority for them to get their child into shape. Even if it is, the extent to which they can exercise with them is limited. It is a key factor when your child is overweight to get them active as well as to cut down the amount of fat in their diet.
But you must carefully cut down the fat in their diet. Reducing fat is a good way to cut calories without depriving your child of nutrients. Simple ways to cut the fat in your family’s diet include eating low-fat or even better, non-fat dairy products, poultry without the skin, and lean meats, and low-fat or fat-free breads and cereals. Making small changes to your family’s diet is a good, healthy way to help your child lose weight. It is also good to involve your child in food shopping and preparing meals. This teaches children about nutrition, and gives them a feeling of accomplishment.
Physical education is only part of the solution. “Just as parents reinforce good reading habits, they also should encourage their children to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives” according to Judy Young, executive director of NASPE. The national Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) in Reston, Va. , recently issued guidelines recommending that children ages six to eleven exercise a minimum of thirty to sixty minutes per day. The problem with this is that in today’s lifestyle, it is the norm for both parents to have careers and work full time.
This means that they’re children will come home to an empty house after school. Our society consists of households where both parents work and their children are left to fend for and feed themselves after school. According to a new Urban Institute report, “An estimated four million grade-school age children are regularly without adult supervision. “ Another shocking fact is that in California, six percent of 6-9 year olds and thirty two percent of 10 - 12 year olds average five hours unsupervised each week, or with a sibling under the age of 13.
Research shows that children who spend a lot of time alone are more likely to have social and academic problems (HHS Press Office). When children come home from school the first thing on their agenda is food. What does the normal everyday child reach for when mom and dad aren’t around? A nutritious snack, or the cookie jar and a bag of Doritos. Marvin Moss, Capital-Journal columnist, states that “To many of you, This may not seem like a major event, but put yourself in a kid’s shoes. “
“I know when mine come home from school, the first thing they want is food. “ “I call their after school eating habit pre-dinner. “If one of us parents wasn’t home when they arrived home from school, how would they be made to eat a healthy pre-diner snack? “ Snacks take up most of the calories in children’s diets and lead to them becoming overweight. “Total daily intake from snacks among children has risen from an average of 450 to 600 in the last two decades” ,according to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While some snacks are healthy for children and give them nutrients and energy, most snacks are usually a source of high-calorie, low-nutrient foods like soda, potato chips, and cookies.
After they have picked out their snack, they go for the television and sit on the couch while all of their favorite shows come on. Its either the television or the computer or multiple video games. There are so many alternative choices for kids nowadays other than physical activities. There is always a new video game or an upgraded computer toy, and not to mention all of the new shows that come out every season. Along with the hundreds of shows that kids watch after school come the numerous food commercials advertising pizza, soda, and candy making kids minds turn to food yet again.
Technology has advanced so much in the last few decades coming out with many new high-tech, entertaining things for kids to play with. All of the new technology is fascinating, but is it a coincidence that America’s weight problem is expanding along side all the new technology coming out? NO. It is no coincidence. “In America, kids spend an average of 21 hours per week in front of the television, and if a child adds 5 hours to that per week, he or she is ten percent more likely to become obese” (Parr 97). Children are larger because American life has changed.
More children sit in front of video monitors than on bicycles or playing sports. According to a Nielsen Media Research Report, “Aside from the time kids spend watching television ,they spend another three to four hours daily with the internet and video games” (Karas 47). According to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Center for Health Statistics, in 1999 over 9 million --or 15 percent-- of American children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 18 were overweight, or triple what the percentage was in 1990” (Parenting Today ).
This problem is going to continue to rise over the years if our country doesn’t put more effort into stopping it. Leaving your child unattended after school and during the summer is a factor not as harmless as everyone thought. Lois Salsbury, president of Children Now, states that “While the United States has restructured its economy, analysis of the impact on working families is still in its infancy. ” “Hundreds of thousands of children are spending time alone. ” “Is this what we want in terms of safety and developing our children? ” Our nation is developing as our parenting skills are deteriorating.
We want so much to be wealthy and powerful that we neglect to realize what it is doing to our children. Parents need to realize what is happening to their children and gain control over what their kids eat and how much time they spend sitting around if this problem is going to be reversed. Another area that needs focusing on is the food available for kids to buy while at school. U. S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, has declared childhood obesity a national epidemic (Mayer 23). The Oakland School District banned the sale of sugary drinks and candy in vending machines.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the country, followed several weeks later (27). School lunches are not meeting up to the nutritious standards that they should. Vending machines are in almost every elementary school offering kids the opportunity to eat candy, chips, and soda at any time of the school day. The lunches offered usually have one healthy meal and the rest consist of things like pizza, cheese steaks, and mozzarella sticks.
Is this what we want our kids eating all day? Legislators introduced several bills aimed at eefing up physical education requirements and fixing up school lunch programs. Gov. Gray Davis signed a bill in October that prohibits the sale of junk food in elementary schools and bans soda at middle schools (32). This needs to be done everywhere. There is no questions that school meal programs have a powerful influence on children’s future food choices. ” More than half of youth in the United States eat one to three major meals in school” (Owl 27). Adequate nutrition throughout the day plays an important performance at school and enables children to make wise choices when eating.
Kids who go hungry or are only allowed a hurried meal through the morning or afternoon are likely to arrive at home after school extremely hungry. This can lead to overeating particularly high-fat, easy to prepare snack foods. This pattern of behavior is difficult to change and can lead to obesity. “Providing healthy meals at a pleasant environment at school is an important part of obesity prevention“ (29). Many school lunch programs offer fast food as an alternative. Limit your childs participation in unhealthy school lunch programs.
Parents should ban together and speak with their school boards about improving school lunch programs. School districts should remove the vending machines from their schools and make the lunches offered healthier. So much money is spent every year on obesity programs for children and all that money could be saved if schools would just do their part in solving the problem. “There is no more compelling reminder of the health implications than the $127 million spent each year in hospital costs related to childhood obesity“, according to the Centers for Disease control and Prevention.
Some things are being done to start solving the problem but not enough. If everyone works together this battle can be overcome. The increasing number of obese parents, technology, unsupervised children after school, and unhealthy school lunches are to blame for the increasing number of overweight kids in the United States. These factors can all be helped and prevented. This problem must be fixed before it gets worse. Our nation must united and work together for the sake and well being of our children.