Posts Tagged ‘Childhood Obesity’

Do menus with calorie counts work?

February 18, 2011

Back in 2008 when New York City ordered fast-food and other chain restaurants to post calorie information on their menus, the eateries were livid.  They worried that when faced with just how many calories a Starbucks Venti Java Chip Frappaccino (440 calories) or one of Pizzeria Unos’ individual Chicago Classic Deep Dish Pizza (2310!) actually contained, they’d stop coming in search of healthier options.  Turns out the restaurant industry had nothing to worry about.

A recent study by researchers at New York University looked at whether the change affected the eating habits of New York City and Newark, NJ kids from low-income families.   (New Jersey served as the control group because the state doesn’t yet require calorie information to be posted).  They discovered that although 60 percent of the kids who ordered their own food noticed the information, 90 percent of them said the labels didn’t affect what they ordered.  It was the same when it came to kids whose parents ordered for them.

So are calorie counts a waste?  Not necessarily, say the researchers.  What they concluded from this study is that in addition to providing the labels, people need to be educated about what makes up a healthy diet.  In essence, what good is knowing how many calories something contains if you don’t know how many calories you should be eating in the first place?  But the question then becomes is it the responsibility of the individual or the government to get this information?  I should point out this NYU study comes federal officials write rules requiring chain restaurants across the country to post calorie information on their menus and drive-through signs.

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Hey America! You’re Fat!

June 30, 2010

There’s a new report ranking all 50 states according to how fat its adult residents are.   Mississippi sits at the top of the list where 33% of adults are classified as overweight.  In fact, eight of the top ten fattest states are in the Southeast.  The leanest state in the country is Colorado where 19% of adults weigh too much.

While a lot of ink has been devoted to where states rank, the report by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) also makes several other important points.  For example, adult obesity rates went up in 28 states over the past year.  Only one state (the District of Columbia) saw its adult obesity rate go down.

Also (and this isn’t really anything new) the ethnicity of those who tend to be overweight skews heavily toward Blacks and Latinos, with those groups having the highest obesity levels in 40 states.  Economics also play a role.  The lower the state’s average income level, the higher the obesity rate.

When it comes to child obesity rates, the numbers aren’t as high as adults (thank goodness), but the news still isn’t good – one third of this country’s children and teens are overweight.  What’s worse is that 84% of parents think little Bobby and Sue are at a healthy weight.

But all is not lost.  The report also highlights the fact that government at both the state and local level have undertaken a wide range of policies to bring down obesity levels.  They include the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” program as well as setting healthier school lunch standards. (Click here if you want to read the entire report.)

Those programs are a good start, but the real battle is convincing people to adopt healthy lifestyles at home.  Yes, I know that if you’re a single mom working two jobs to make ends meet that you might not have the time to cook a family meal.  But honestly, how long does it take to boil water and make a box of pasta?  There’s also the argument that healthy food is expensive.   Yes, some of it is.  But the basics are still cheaper than the prepackaged stuff.  And what’s more…you get more meals if you’re buying basic ingredients versus the already made stuff.  (Think a canister of plain oatmeal versus the single serving packets).

So, people, it can be done.  We just have to convince people it’s not as hard as they think it is.

Why junkfood is magically delicious

June 22, 2010

See if you can follow this simple logic problem.

Kids like cartoons.  Kids like junk food.  Therefore, kids love junk food sold by cartoon characters.

That, essentially, is the finding of a new study published in the latest issue of Pediatrics.  In the study, kids between the ages of four and six were giving two packets of three different kinds of snacks (graham crackers, fruit snacks and carrots).  One set of the packages featured licensed cartoon characters (you know, like SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer).  The second set of snacks did not.

The kids were then asked to eat each of the snacks.  Afterwards, they were asked which one tasted better.  The cartoon festooned graham crackers and gummy snacks won, even though the snacks in each of the packages were exactly the same.  (There  was no difference when it came to carrots.)

So it would seem just like adults are swayed by celebrity endorsements, kids are swayed by cartoons. 

But this is worth noting…even without the cartoons, kids still picked the sugary snacks over the carrots.  I think that points to a bigger problem of nutrition education than marketing.  Nevertheless, I think you’ll soon see an onslaught of cartoons hawking fruits and veggies and whole grains.  (Oh wait.  Disney has already done that.)

A different kind of goal weight

March 16, 2010

I’m all for setting goals.  But this just blows my mind.  Apparently a woman in New Jersey is on a mission to become the world’s fattest woman…and she’s already half way there currently tipping the scales at 600 pounds.  But it’s some other numbers that have me scratching my head.

1,000 – her goal weight, in pounds

12, 000 – the number of calories she’s eating daily to reach her goal

750 – the amount of money, in dollars, that she spends a week on food

And here’s what really made me lose my appetite.  This woman earns that money by running a website where men pay to watch her eat.  Just gross.

With all the studies out there showing that extremely obesity can lead to a host of health problems I don’t think this is wise.  I’m not saying she has to be thin, but being healthy should be her goal.  (Note: she maintains she is even though she can’t walk unassisted)  Also…she has a daughter.  It’s well known that kids learn eating habits from their parents.  Does she really want her following in her oversized footprints?  I feel like maybe I’m being too judgemental, but then again, there is something wrong with this, isn’t there?

SOURCE: NJ Woman Eating to Become World’s Fattest

You’re Fat?…Blame Grandma

February 17, 2010

A new study out this week reveals what us Italian kids already know.  If Grandma (Nonna) is looking after you, you’re going to eat…a lot.

The results found kids whose grandparents watched them part-time had a 15% higher risk of being overweight for their age compared with those solely looked after by their parents. 

When my grandmother would babysit, she’d come armed with Little Debbie snack cakes, Pepperidge Farm Apple Turnovers and Haagen Daaz ice cream.  Not to mention the homemade (and fried) chicken cutlets and mounds of Italian salami, cheese and breadsticks.  (And I wonder why I was a chunky kid?) 

The study goes on to suggest that the problem could be solved if grandparents are taught about the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise. 

Here’s the thing though.  Grandmothers and grandfathers see it as their job to spoil their grandkids rotten.  If you don’t have a lot of money, the easiest way to do this is through food.  Besides, to a kid, a backpack full of candy is better than any toy. (That was the way my Opa spoiled us.)  It’s also a passive way to take care of child when age has robbed you of the energy to keep up with them.

So, yeah, maybe enlightening Grandma about the dangers of childhood obesity might help.  But I can already tell you what her response will be, “If I don’t spoil her, who will?  Besides, a little food never hurt anyone.”

Slow down there, partner!

January 6, 2010

I’m all for new technology that helps us fight the battle of the bulge, but I’m not quite sure about this latest gizmo.

It’s called the Mandometer and it’s a talking computerized weighing device that tracks how fast you’re eating your food off of the plate.  If it senses your scarfing your meal down, it’ll tell you to slow down.  A kind of stressful way to eat, I think.  I know I don’t want to worry about being yelled at when I eat. 

What’s even worse is that this gadget is intended for kids.  Yup, the Mandometer is the latest way to help prevent childhood obesity.

According to the British Medical Journal, kids who used the device at mealtime weighed less and ate smaller portions after 12 months.

So maybe it works, but correct me if I’m wrong…aren’t parents supposed to be watching what and how much their kids eat?  I mean, the Mandometer can’t tell if that plate is full of fries or carrot sticks.  The first line of defense in fighting childhood obesity is parents.  They need to be making the healthy eating choices and teaching their kids how to eat smart.