Children and Obesity: Who’s in charge of what they eat?

I am sure lately it would seem that more and more children are heavier and heavier.  You are likely to also hear the talks about this phenomenon on the radio and the television talk shows.  You may also have children who are overweight/obese or know someone who does.  With more than 25% of children overweight or obese, have you ever stopped to ask why are children so much heavier today than say 30 years ago? Yes, today’s children are more inactive due to the rise in electronic games, parents are more fearful about letting their children walk to their neighbourhood schools, or to the school bus stop. More and more I have noticed that children don’t just spontaneously play anymore; instead, they have play dates arranged,they then are driven to the playmate’s home and picked up after.   These changes in how children play are some of the contributing factors in why children today are overweight or obese.

A huge factor in the rate of childhood obesity from my professional and personal experience is the mere fact that in many households, children dictate the menu for what the family eats.  Often parents see their children as fussy and so are fearful that they won’t get the nutrients needed for proper growth and development.  So, they  feed them only  foods  they really like to eat.  This often comes down to very limited variety, and often higher calorie, empty nutrient foods.  Parents tend to shop for groceries with their children’s preferences in mind.  This means instead of being role models and setting the foundation needed for healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle, the parents ended up being guided and instructed by their children!

Some points to consider in getting children to make healthier eating choices:  First, eat at least one main meal together as a family.  Research shows that the family tends to make better choices overall when they eat together.  Second, choose small areas to work on each day.  An example is to post a copy of the Food Guide in a place for the family to see. Get each family member to commit to eating the recommended amounts of say fruits and vegetables for that day.  Do the same for the other food groups.  This will help the family in the long run.  Third,  commit as a family to limit how often you eat out or order in from restaurantsRecent statistics show that more than 30 million Americans eat all three main meals outside their homes! This is staggering! If you and your family are among this number taking advantage of these strategies will help you win the battle of the bulge. The last point is remember that children are children and it is us adults who are responsible for their health and well-being. It is our duty to give safe, nutritious foods in an environment that encourages health and wellness. Children will get the message and follow suit.  For more valuable information on feeding yourself and your family see my book, Solutions for Health, you can get a copy of this resource by visiting  my website

In Health, Your Weekly Coach,

Phyllis Reid-Jarvis, RD,CDE

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