Wednesday, January 20, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Solving the Childhood Obesity Epidemic

“Only a life lived for others is a life worth living.”  --Albert Einstein

When was the last time you took your child to their pediatrician for a checkup and the doctor gave you a prescription to feed your child vegetables every day? 

There are easy, creative ways to include vegetables into daily meals.  In the healthy cooking workshops we offer for children, we give kids opportunities to learn about food preparation firsthand.  Most kids embrace the chance to try a new food when they learn how to grow it, harvest it, chop it up into little itty, bitty pieces and then taste it.  My favorite response to parents who tell me, “My child will never eat that!” is to invite them to go away for an hour. When they come back to pick up their kids, our favorite thing to hear is, “What did you do with my child?  That can’t possibly be my child eating those vegetables!”  All I can say is that magic happens in the kitchen when you let kids be kids and you let them learn.  

With obesity affecting one in six children in the United States, we need solutions that work.  Here are a couple of ideas:

Families need to be able to earn a living wage so that children do not suffer in poverty.  There is a direct correlation between poverty and childhood obesity.   What is the poverty level in your community and is it trending down or up?   

Women who are pregnant need to be supported to breastfeed because breastfeeding lowers the risk of a child becoming overweight or obese.  Does your workplace have a wellness policy that supports employees who are breastfeeding? 

Communities need to be encouraged to increase access to fresh vegetables and fruits, especially in areas considered to be “food deserts”.  How many of the local convenience stores in the food deserts where you live feature fresh “healthy in a hurry” sections with the support of your local health department?

Children need access to safe outdoor play areas and communities, together with the local police departments, needs to ensure kids can get outdoors.  They need sidewalks so it is safe to walk.  Does your neighborhood have sidewalks and outdoor play spaces?

School guidance counselors, psychologists, and cafeteria managers need training on recognizing and protecting children who are being bullied or ostracized because they are at unhealthy weights.  When was the last time your child’s school staff received training in how to reverse, prevent and halt childhood obesity?

The minimum wage needs to be raised to $15.00/hour by 2020 so that families living in poverty do not have to work 2 and 3 jobs to pay the bills and then have no time left for a family dinner.  Does your county have an economic council and how do you become a member to advocate for livable wages for your neighbors?

Eating dinner together is one of the strategies which can prevent childhood obesity.  Families benefit from sharing a meal with real food instead of burgers from the dollar menu at McDonald’s while having conversations that are not rushed.  When you take at least 20 minutes to eat a meal, you don’t overeat (because it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to send the brain the message that you have eaten enough and are full).  How often do you make eating dinner together a family priority?

Throughout the year, I will share more strategies that are effective in halting, reversing, and preventing childhood obesity.  Stay tuned and be the change you want to see in the world.

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

*To learn more about childhood obesity, go to or click here.