Back to School, Back to Health
By: Rebecca Gerard, Registered Dietitian
“We live in a time when children are more harmed by poor diet than by exposure to alcohol, drugs, and tobacco combined. Due to poor diet, this generation of children has a shorter life expectancy than their parents.”
This was a quote by David Katz, M.D. Medical Director for Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and Medical Editor for O, The Oprah Magazine. To understand these statements more directly, look at these recent statistics for child health in the U.S.:
- Cancer kills more children than any other disease;
- By age 3, children have fatty deposits in their arteries;
- By age 12, 70% have developed beginning stages of hardening of the arteries;
- 1 in 4 children are obese;
- Obesity has doubled in the last 20 years;
- Nearly 50% of obese adolescents remain obese as adults;
- In the last 20 years, Type 2 diabetes has increased ten-fold;
- Over 8 million children have asthma, up 232% in the last 40 years;
- 7% of school age children are diagnosed as ADHD; and
- Less than 7% of children and adolescents consume the recommended 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables per day.
The good news is that 70% of disease is preventable through good nutrition. A few simple healthy steps can make a world of difference.
- Try eating more natural or organic foods which are devoid of preservatives. Preservatives can affect concentration and immune function.
- Keep processed sugar to a minimum. I tell my clients if you can cut down on 50% of the sugar you are currently consuming you are moving in the right direction. The average soda has 60 grams of sugar in 1 can. This could shut down your child’s immune system for several hours. Not to mention, sugar is an acid producer and it take 32 glasses of alkaline water to neutralize 1 glass of soda. The issue with this amount of acid is that it creates an atmosphere for inflammation and disease. Try preparing decaffeinated fruit teas and adding a few drops of liquid stevia for sweetness without adding sugar.
- Drink at least 8 glasses of filtered water. In my opinion, the best kind of water is filtered tap water. There is no regulation on bottled water. So fill your child’s thermos up with water for school, home or travel. It’s easier to monitor the amount.
- Incorporate at least 5-6 servings of raw fruits and vegetable in your child’s day. Try making fruit smoothies with protein powder, fruit and water or milk. They love this! Prepare fresh fruit and veggie finger trays with a healthy dip like peanut butter or low fat sour cream. Children will eat what is in front of them. Add a salad in with meals or vegetables to sandwiches.
- Limit eating out to only several times/week and if you are too busy to cook try a meal delivery service like Healthy Chef Creations. Healthy Chef Creations prepares low fat, nutrient dense and preservative-free meals that are portion controlled to fit your family’s needs.
- Exercise is another important component. So if your child likes dance or sports, encourage 1 activity a season. Try getting involved with family activities that promote movement like biking around the neighborhood.