One out of every three children are now overweight, or close to 25 million American children, and these figures are increasing. In fact, in just the past 30 years, the number of overweight children has doubled. Fifty years ago, only a small percentage of the population had problems with their weight. Now we have an epidemic, including among children. This is very serious, as being overweight as a child can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and many more health problems.
While many are quick to blame inactivity and more TV watching and video game playing, along with simple overeating, for this increase, I think there is another factor involved. This increase in childhood obesity has also happened while we have greatly increased the number of diet and low-fat foods in our diets, including diet sodas, fat-free chips, low-fat dinner entrees and more. Around the turn of the century, there were NO diet foods, and we ate more fat, including more butter and cream and red meat, and very few people were overweight. And fewer still were obese. So what is going on? Should you be buying your children low-fat diet foods to help them lose weight?
Low Calorie Diet Foods Lead to Overeating and Obesity
According to an article in the journal “Obesity,” published in August, 2007, researchers have found that when children eat low-calorie versions of foods that are high in calories, overeating takes place and that leads to obesity. The head author of the paper, David Pierce, says that “based on what (we have) learned, it is better for children to eat healthy, well-balanced diets with sufficient calories for their daily activities rather than low-calorie snacks or meals.”
Diet Foods Condition You to Want More
Although eating diet foods may also lead to obesity and ill health for adults, it seems that for children, there is another factor going on. It appears that the use of diet drinks and other diet foods from an early age seems to condition them to want to eat more, since you can eat more of the diet foods with fewer calories. Another study at the University of Massachusetts corroborates this. It found a link between diet soda drinking and a higher risk of obesity, along with higher rates of heart disease and diabetes.
Eat Well Balanced Meals Instead of Diet Foods
Although the study referenced above did use rats, not children, the researchers feel that since the young animals were made to overeat when given low-calorie foods and drinks on a daily basis, this is directly applicable to our children. As we have seen, obesity rates are high and climbing even amongst our youngsters. Mr. Pierce recommends using old-fashioned ways of keeping your children healthy and fit such as eating well-balanced meals and exercising regularly. He goes on to admit that “diet foods are probably not a good idea for growing youngsters.”
We completely agree. We need to go back to real foods, for both children and adults, and cut out the diet foods, the low-fat foods, the pre-packaged foods, and the fast foods. We need to be eating whole fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy from grass-fed animals, and whole grains. You need to remember that children are growing and need more calories than an adult of their size. You don’t want to feed them a low-calorie diet, and especially not a low-fat diet. Kids need good quality fats for their brains and reproductive growth especially.
In addition to going back to real foods, it is also true that too much TV watching or video game playing instead of exercising outdoors is bad for all of us, and your kids are no different. Set a good example for them and encourage some outdoor activity on most days, along with exercising yourself. This, in combination with the real foods, will help your kids attain and maintain a normal healthy weight.