Creative Child

Simplifying Kids’ Nutrition with the Traffic Light System

by Rebecca Eanes

Getting kids to eat right can be a challenge. According to the CDC, childhood obesity affects about 13.7 million children and adolescents in the United States. Pediatric obesity has reached epidemic proportions which has both immediate and long-term consequences for children. These consequences are grouped into three main areas: mental, physical, and economic.

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Physical Consequences of Childhood Obesity

In a recent study involving more than 43,000 children between the ages of 10 and 17, researchers from the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families, and Communities found links between childhood obesity and chronic conditions such as ADHD, learning disabilities, depression, allergies, asthma, ear infections, and headaches. Obese kids are also at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes mellitus, heart attack, stroke, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. They have a greater risk of developing bone, joint, and growth plate problems, as well as liver disease, GERD, and some types of cancer.

 

Mental Consequences of Childhood Obesity

Obesity takes an emotional and mental toll on the child as well. In a culture that values thinness, children as young as six may associate negative stereotypes with excess pounds. There is a social stigma attached to being an overweight child, and it can be just as damaging as the physical effects. Obese children are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, and this lack of confidence can lead to poorer academic performance. These children are often subjected to teasing and bullying which contributes to their low self-confidence. Depression is another risk factor of childhood obesity. When children are often bullied, teased, or tormented, and when they don’t feel they are accepted by their peers, he or she may become clinically depressed and withdrawn. Some research even suggests that heavy teenagers and young adults may be less likely to be accepted into a prestigious college or land a good job.

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Economic Consequences of Childhood Obesity

One must also consider the direct costs of medical office visits, tests, and services. Indirect costs include decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and premature death. Researchers estimate that over $147 billion are spent yearly on the direct and indirect costs associated with obesity.

 

Nutrition Made Simple

In order to address better nutrition in my own home, I recently purchased the book Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right by Joanna Dolgoff, MD. In this simple system, foods are broken down into three categories: Green light foods, yellow light foods, and red light foods.

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