Not a day goes by that I don't read or hear something about childhood obesity, see a child who is overweight or obese or talk to a parent who is concerned about their kid's eating habits.
Sadly, one in three children in this country are overweight or obese. As a result of this growing public health epidemic, millions of children are at risk for a lifetime of chronic health problems, like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease.
In fact, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) predicts that if childhood obesity continues at the current rate, one in three children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes at some point during their lifetime. Clearly, this is unacceptable.
Surely, as Americans, we can do better. It will not be easy, but for the sake of our children and the future of this great country, we must stop childhood obesity now.
It will take a great deal of courage to fight the fight.
· It means standing up to big businesses that rake in billions of dollars annually by selling cheap junk food to unsuspecting children.
· It means changing eating patterns to get more of the foods that promote health and less of those that contribute to obesity and chronic diseases.
· It means fostering a food culture in schools and other places where children congregate to support the availability of nutritious foods and less of foods that lead to poor health.
· It means educating children and parents and empowering them to make healthy food choices.
· It means demanding truth in labeling so that consumers know what they are getting when they buy packaged foods.
· It means developing and enforcing strong consumer protection laws to prevent the wanton addition of fat, sugar and salt to processed foods and selling those foods to unsuspecting consumers.
· It means putting a stop to the advertisement of sodas and other high-calorie junk food to children.
Together we can win the fight and stop childhood obesity, if only we have the courage to fight back.
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Dr. Dorene E. Carter is a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant, specializing in child health and nutrition, with special emphasis on childhood obesity. Dr. Carter, who earned her PhD in nutrition from the University of California, Berkeley, is CEO of CHANA Project, the Child Health and Nutrition Access Project. To learn more, visit www.dailydietguide.com and www.chanaproject.org.