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Originally published April 2 2011

Mainstream media and Institute of Medicine miss mark in reducing childhood obesity (Opinion)

by T.M. Hartle

(NaturalNews) Childhood obesity has reached epidemic levels in recent years. According to the Institute of Medicine, obesity in preschool aged children and teens has more than doubled since the 1970`s while the obesity rate in children 6 to 11 has more than tripled. Protecting advertising revenue and financial interests is the top priority for news outlets, and families are being given watered down recommendations for preventing childhood obesity that offer little benefit as a result. Parents deserve real solutions aimed at drastic reduction in obesity risk.

USA weekend featured an article on three simple ways to lower your child`s risk of obesity. The article counsels parents to let their child sleep in on weekends, limit television, and eat together as a family as a means of reducing obesity risks. The first tip to let children sleep in on the weekend may appeal to children, but it does not even begin to address the real issue. The second tip of limiting television is excellent advice as children spend too much time mindlessly watching television shows. However, dietary habits are significantly more important than the amount of time spent sleeping or watching television in terms of obesity.

The final suggestion to eat together as a family has value in providing a social environment while eating, and it encourages home cooked meals versus fast food. This is probably the most viable of the suggestions given; however, eating as a family does not address what is being served. If a family enjoys a meal of hamburger helper, wonder bread with margarine and jam and some root beer to wash it down, nothing has been solved by eating together as a family. Families should be encouraged to focus on a healthy diet, not simply eating a meal together.

The Institute of Medicine has a report available on the parent`s role in preventing childhood obesity. This information addresses a few key subjects such as soda consumption while ignoring legitimate advice on what constitutes a healthy diet for a child. Unfortunately, the average American has little understanding of what a healthy diet is. Fewer than 30% of meals in the U.S. are prepared at home leading to a loss of the art of preparing a home cooked meal. Parents need very specific guidelines of what constitutes a healthy diet for their children to help them navigate through food industry advertising and grocery store shelves. Mainstream media and the medical community downplay the dramatic effect processed junk food has on the obesity epidemic while making recommendations that will have very little impact.

Real solutions for obesity are simple, yet they are never mentioned due to financial conflicts of interest. Processed foods should be eliminated, including foods that contain white flour, sugar, high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils or any food that could not be made in your own kitchen. A dramatic increase in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and other whole foods should replace processed foods in a child`s diet. Parents often complain that their children won`t eat healthy food. Most children won`t eat healthy food because processed food is available and frequently offered. Mainstream media and the medical community are not going to solve the growing epidemic of obesity; it has to be solved with the parents` choice to change the foods offered to their children.

About the author

T.M. Hartle has a Bachelors degree in Natural Health Science with a concentration in Clinical Nutrition as well as a Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell University. She is a student midwife who teaches pregnancy nutrition courses to midwives and childbirth educators throughout the country. She has a certificate in the Essentials of raw culinary arts from Living Light Culinary Arts Institute and is the Owner and Chef of The Peaceful Kitchen.

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