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How Well do your Children Eat?

Por Eleazar Lara-Pantin, MD, MSc.* -

Parents must recognize the responsibility they have to set a good example for their children to practice healthy eating habits.

Today we write about this issue after having heard and read numerous press releases about a study that yielded alarming results.
The study was requested by an important manufacturer of children’s food to gain a better understanding about the eating patterns of children between four months and two years of age.

The first finding of this study showed that on average, children within this age range are already consuming an excess of calories by approximately 30%. The findings from the study warrant the effort to create awareness of what the implications are. The fact is, that children at that age are at a point in their lives when they are learning about food and forming eating habits. Based on these findings, it isn't difficult to imagine the impact that overweight and obesity, and related chronic diseases, will have on this generation of children over the next couple of decades. The Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes this and stated that, "Obesity is the greatest health threat to the population of the United States."

Besides finding that children are taking in more calories than they need, the study also reveals that up to one third of the children studied did not eat sufficient fruits or vegetables, and that the vegetable preferred among those older than 15 months, was the fried potato. Twenty-percent of children between 19 months and 2 years of age eat french fries every day. The United States Department of Agriculture's 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommend eating a variety of fruits and vegetables each day that provide the vitamins, minerals, and fiber the body needs to grow and stay healthy, particularly during this critical stage of life. Eating fried potatoes does not fulfill this recommendation.

Other unhealthy foods such as hot dogs, sausages, bacon, candy and other sweets, were part of the daily diet of many of the children in the study sample. It is obvious from the results of this study that there is much that parents and other care givers can do to improve the diets of children, and give them the opportunity for a better, healthier start to life. This means providing them with healthy meals and snacks, that include a variety of foods.  


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