Teen talk: Let’s change the tides of children’s nutrition

By: Zack Leven, Hannah Crasto, Luke Patrick, and Yanhua Zhang

Applicable science and research decreased child morbidity by 41 percent in the last four decades. Countless lives are saved every year by listening to and following this research. So why is this not the case with children’s nutrition? Time and time again, statistics show that childhood obesity is highly correlated with adverse health effects such as diabetes, heart disease, and shorter lifespans. Despite this research, instead of declining rates of childhood obesity in the last four decades, the United States’ rate rose from 5 percent to 18.5 percent. 

Colorful fruits and vegetables (Photo by Nora Daniels)

Parents must begin to change this narrative. Children learn through modeling. Unfortunately, many kids do not have nutrition adequately modeled for them. When children see their parents, supervisors, and teachers eat poorly and ignore their body’s needs, they do not understand that there is an alternative, healthier option. It is imperative that parents supply their children with a variety of foods. This does not mean offering the most nutritious foods all the time, but giving kids options will broaden their pallets and have positive health benefits for their future. Understandably, children will not enjoy every vegetable or fruit thrown in front of them. However, giving various options to choose from and explaining the health benefits of trying more foods will result in healthy lives. Introducing a variety of foods to children of young ages will even fight against the development of allergies.

From the 1990s to the 2000s, peanut allergies, as well as other food allergies, increased exponentially in kids because recommendations told parents not to introduce high allergen foods until after the age of one year old. This recommendation was a mistake, and research and trends prove it. Regardless, parents are still hesitant to present high allergen foods to their kids at an early age. Ultimately, this uncertainty from parents hurts their kids in the long run.  The introduction of high allergen foods when kids are young is necessary to prevent allergies in the future.

Just as parents took doctors and researchers’ counsel on not smoking or maintaining a healthy diet when pregnant in order to increase the likelihood of their future children surviving, it is time to listen to these same people’s guidance when it comes to their children’s nutrition. The critical takeaway for parents is to set a strong example. Every meal should include healthy carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Paired with these essential micronutrients should be variety and support. If parents consciously decide to follow these suggestions, the United States will see a decline in childhood obesity, a decrease in children’s allergies, and an overall increase in children’s health. 

In New Orleans, nutrition is a critical problem that must be addressed. Driving around New Orleans, you can see Fast Food restaurants with lines on the streets wherever you go. This is just one factor that drives the obesity rate to the fifth highest in the nation. If the problem of nutrition is not addressed, New Orleans communities will continue to struggle with obesity, diabetes, and other health consequences.

The children of this country are always seen as the future. Whether the future is set to be positive or negative is up to the example set for the youth. It does not matter if it is nutrition, morals, or drug use; kids will continue to follow the model portrayed to them. Parents, teachers, and adults have an obligation to society to set a strong example in every aspect of life for today’s children.

Learn More at: https://www.ochsnerfitness.com/harahan/ochsner-eat-fit-nola




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