Every five years, the USDA and Department of Health and Human Services work together to update the Dietary Guidelines to reflect changing and new research. This is the year that the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have been released, and the changes were minimal for the most part, although there was an additional emphasis on addressing the ever increasing obesity epidemic. There was a special section devoted to the health and well being of our children.
To illustrate how times have changed for our children, let’s take a look at the rates of obesity and how they have increased. In 1970, less than 5% of all children were classified as obese. In 2011, that figure has doubled. Similar rates of increase were seen for most other age groups. The most shocking increase was seen in children ages 6-11, a group which showed an increase of 400%, jumping from just 4% to more than 20%.
These skyrocketing rates of overweight and obese children shows that many of our children are dealing with calorie imbalance: the reality that they are consuming more calories than they are expending. The difficulty lies in the reality that losing pounds to achieve a healthier weight is much more difficult than merely remaining at a healthy weight from the beginning. Early prevention of obesity is an important strategy for combating and reversing the obesity epidemic.
Obesity in our children is a real and present danger. The number of children diagnosed with so called “Adult” diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, are skyrocketing. Ultimately, obesity can increase the risk of premature death. In fact, this is the first generation that is not expected to outlive their parents.
The new dietary guidelines for our children have not changed all that much, with the exception of a new reminder to control our sodium intake. Here are four key areas of concern that we should be aware of for the health of our children.
- Prevent or reduce excess weight and obesity through improved eating and physical activity behaviors.
- Control total calorie intake to manage body weight. For people who are overweight or obese, this will mean consuming fewer calories from foods and beverages.
- Increase physical activity and reduce time spent in sedentary behaviors.
- Maintain appropriate calorie balance during each stage of life—childhood, adolescence, adulthood, pregnancy and breastfeeding, and older age.
Read the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans in their entirety on the USDA website.