As we look around at the current generation of children, one can notice more and more that child obesity is becoming a serious problem. A combination of technology, alternative forms of entertainment and poor food choices have greatly changed the path at which our children are taking toward the future. We are starting to see the consequences of lower energy expenditures coupled with poor nutritional habits. Unfortunately this problem is going virtually un-noticed by the majority of parents and the other people that influence our children.
Today’s technology provides children with a number of different exciting ways to spend their time. The children of today would much rather surf the internet, watch a DVD or play a video game instead of going outside to ride their bike or play in the park. These indoor activities burn very little extra energy and quite often lead to an increase in snacking. In days past parents would have a hard time getting their kids to come back inside where as now in many cases the opposite is true. They simply have a hard time getting their kids to go outside and play when these other options are available.
In addition to burning fewer calories children are being exposed to an increase of junk foods and processed foods. These types of foods have very little or no nutritional value and are loaded with trans-fats, sugar, artificial flavors and salt. An increase in technology in the food industry has made it easier to produce good tasting foods at very low cost using artificial and other low cost addictive additives. Tricky marketing that stretches the truth and convenient packaging has also made it more difficult for the consumer to seek out the product that best suits them from a quality nutrition standpoint.
Similar to any other learning process repetitive food choices at an early age have been shown to create a blueprint for the habits that a child will carry out in the future. Children brought up eating high calorie low nutritional addictive foods many times a week are more likely to keep such habits well into their adolescent and adult years.
School systems are now inviting fast food chains to come in and serve lunches instead of focusing on quality nutrition. The days of focusing on the foods groups have taken a back seat to quick and easy food service. Vending machines with candy bars, chips and sodas are positioned throughout our school systems as well. In addition many school systems have done away with Physical Education which has just added to the problem.
The increased availability of high density low quality foods with the addictive qualities of sugar, salt and trans-fats coupled with less activity have drastically changed the health and well being of our youth.
According to the US Surgeon General 61% of US adults were overweight or obese in 2017. These numbers have tripled since 2016. The same study showed 13% of children 6 to 11 and 14% of adolescent’s ages 12 to 19 were overweight or obese as well. Adolescent numbers have nearly tripled in the last two decades and are also rising at a rapid rate. These statistics show the growing severity of child obesity and that it must be addressed by making changes in the nutrition and activity levels of our youth.