Childhood obesity rates in the United States are constantly on the rise. The Department of Health states, “approximately 10 percent of 4 and 5 year old children are overweight, double that of 20 years ago.” Being obese especially throughout your childhood develops a higher risk of health problems. Obese people suffer from many health complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even cancer. Having one of those conditions as a child can make a parent feel miserable about not watching after their kids when they had the chance. Parents and children are not educated enough on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Health education classes and school menu items should be enforced for children to help teach them about healthy eating and exercise.
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School cafeterias should compose a healthier menu for kids to eat. Majority of schools only tend to have fatty foods and sweets. “Schools have become a favored location to intervene because of the continuous and intensive interaction school personnel have with children and adolescents” (Greco23). Considering students are in school for about seven hours a day, school personnel could potentially help shape a child’s eating habits to avoid obesity. A child’s body needs the proper nutrition in order to have a healthy development. A person’s body, especially that of a child’s is constantly changing. Nutrients are one of the most important things the body needs to continue growing and developing. In order for parents and children to become informed about nutrition, the school should step forward and make a change to influence others around them.
In order to help reduce childhood obesity, schools should start off by disposing of the fatty foods they serve. For breakfast, low sugar cereals, oatmeal, and yogurt could be served for children. Increasing the amount of whole grains is also beneficial for a healthy diet. The school could provide students with the option of pasta, whole oats, brown rice, and corn. While getting lunch, the option of choosing milk is provided but they serve strawberry, chocolate, and whole milk. Although milk has calcium and a great source of nutrients, children tend to go more for the sugary milk instead of the plain white milk. Reduced fat milk is a much healthier option than flavored milk and kids should drink a cup or two a day. Instead of serving items such as sloppy joes, pizza, and hamburgers, they should replace it with salads, fresh fruits or healthy sandwiches. They could also replace slushies and ice cream with Greek yogurt and all-natural fruit popsicles.
A salad bar would also be convenient to add to school cafeterias. If cost is the problem, schools have agriculture classes allowing them to harvest their own fruits and vegetables. Being exposed daily to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables could significantly increase a child’s consumption of salads because they would be able to control what they want to eat and how much they want. Instead of forcing food onto children, permitting them to have plenty of open options would allow them to consider trying out new things on their own. During class, whenever the opportunity presents itself, teachers can offer fruits or whole grain crackers as a snack. Many kids refuse to eat vegetables or fruits saying they do not like them because it does not grasp their attention as candy or other sweets do. Adults can find loopholes by cutting or introducing it to them in creative ways that catches their attention.
Majority of schools nowadays have vending machines that include soda, juice, chips, candy, and other unhealthy snacks. They only offer items that contain high sugar contents because it attracts children with a sweet tooth. Instead of supplying soda cans and juices they should offer water, natural flavored water, or coconut water. Having a few chocolate bars in the vending machine is understandable to get here and there but majority of the vending machine should consist of healthy snacks. Nutrition bars, trail mix, raisins, or even baked chips are much healthier than what is provided now. In the beginning once the change has been made, students may avoid getting a quick snack at the vending machine but will eventually get used to the idea of eating nutritional snacks.
Back then, schools required a health education class to be taken at least 2 or 3 days a week. Health classes in many schools are not being taught anymore. Taking health education classes are an advantage because “they offer opportunities to enlist the involvement of parents and disseminate other knowledge pertinent to healthy eating and physical activity” (Walker 43). The class would be helpful for children to understand that sweets and fast food are not an everyday meal. It should be reinstated to help provide parents and children with more insight about healthy nutrition. Listening to adults talk about healthy eating will allow students to know the consequences it can cause if not taken seriously. Health education is a subject children might not find interesting but teachers can find a way to make it fun and involving.
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Once children get home from school, they run straight to the living room and begin watching tv or playing video games. To avoid obesity, kids should be prevented from eating in front of the of the television and sent to the table. Parents should also decrease the amount of screen time and send their kids outside to play to encourage physical activity. Parents could be involved with their kids and go on walks, bike rides, or play active games eventually making it a daily routine. If parents have a hard time making their kids go spend time outside, they could enroll them into sports that interest them. Children look up to adults as role models therefore we must set the example for them.
Childhood obesity is a problem that many adults have not paid enough attention to and should focus on resolving the issue before it gets worse. Schools and adults should make it their priority to educate children about exercise and healthy nutrition encouraging them to try different foods. Obesity rates in the United States would reduce if schools changed the menu items offered for lunch. Enforcing health class a few days a week and talking to children about healthy food choices and exercise would impact their lives for the better. It is beneficial to help prevent obesity now to avoid rising rates later on.
- Walker, Paula. Winning the War against Childhood Obesity: The Role of Teachers and Schools in Early Childhood Education. Perspectives In Learning, 12(1). Retrieved from https://csuepress.columbusstate.edu/pil/vol12/iss1/12/.
- “Department of Health.” Preventing Childhood Obesity: Tips for Parents, www.health.ny.gov/prevention/nutrition/resources/obparnts.htm.
- Greco, Lisa M. Addressing Childhood Obesity Through School-Based Prevention Programs. 2008, d-scholarship.pitt.edu/6924/1/Grecothesis.pdf.
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