By: Marcia Greenblum, MS, RD Date: 8/30/13
Finally there’s some good news! After years of hearing that Americans are getting fatter, the US Center for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (CDC) has released report findings showing obesity rates in low-income preschoolers have declined in 19 of 43 US states and territories from 2008-2011. We all like to hear good news occasionally, so this finding is encouraging, but there’s still much improvement needed. This report also points out that 1 in 8 preschoolers in the US is obese and obese children are more likely to become obese adults and suffer lifelong physical and mental health problems.
Why, we ask ourselves, are we in this situation? There’s a lot of finger pointing going around but having grown up as the child of 2 public school teachers, I put the major responsibility on the parents and/or caregivers, as does the article titled The Role of Parents in Preventing Obesity by Lindsay et al, published by The Future of Children collaborative. No matter how many ads a preschooler sees, it is still the responsibility of the parent to establish the rules about what should be eaten.
Throughout history and in many forms of life, it has been the role of the parent to protect the child from harm and support them as they grow. Protecting them from harm includes providing healthy foods and explaining why “in this family” we don’t eat unlimited amount of excess calories. Parents are also tasked with supporting their offspring by making sure they have a healthy outlet for their energy and a safe environment to enjoy physical activity. Young muscles need to be strengthened in order to grow and reach their full potential, and it’s the parent’s responsibility to make this possible.
Is this a utopian view of the today’s parenting? Maybe, but I believe the simple steps that CDC recommends for caregivers of preschoolers should be taught to all teens and expectant parents:
- Serve fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods for meals and snacks.
- Be role models by eating healthy meals and snacks with preschoolers.
- Make water easily available throughout the day.
- Limit the time preschoolers watch TV or use the computer in child care and the home.
Support and encourage preschoolers to be physically active every day.
For valuable insights on how to raise children who enjoy and appreciate healthful food, 2 Registered Dietitians, Kate Byers and Laura Hoover, who are also mothers of young children themselves, write daily blog posts at smarteatingforkids.com. Their helpful, creative and experienced tips about raising children to eat well and enjoy childhood, give a good view of successful parenting.