I’m an avid couponer, and I was struck by something on a coupon that I found to be pretty sad for our kids. The coupon was for “Any General Mills Kids Cereal”, and the list included all the sugar cereals like Trix, Cocoa Puffs, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. They didn’t include any of the Cheerios, Wheaties, or Total varieties.
It made me wonder why the most unhealthy and sugar-laden of the cereals were the “Kids” cereals. Why aren’t we choosing the most healthy foods for our kids? Their brains and bodies are growing and developing. They need good nutrition way more than we adults do.
So, I started thinking about the bulk of what a typical American kid will eat:
- Kids’ sugar cereals
- Pop Tarts
- chicken nuggets
- mac and cheese
- hot dogs
- fruit snacks
- granola bars
- white bread sandwiches with processed meat and cheese
- white bread PBJ (the peanut butter is good, at least)
- soda pop
- fast food . . . fast food . . . fast food (If you want to be horrified sometime, take a look at the nutritional value list for McDonalds)
Ok, I had to do it. FYI – One McDonald’s cheeseburger, medium fries, and small soda = 300+380+150 = 830 calories, of which 31 grams is fat (8.5 saturated) That’s more than half the total calories a kid should have during the entire day (about 1500).
The list goes on and on and is so bereft of whole grains, whole foods, fruits and vegetables. This diet is so empty of nutrition that the only vitamins in it are the ones added after the fact to the cereals, milks, and other processed foods.
The results are a generation of kids with the highest rates of childhood obesity ever seen – as many as a third. It’s being called an epidemic. And extreme obesity is also reaching crazy levels: This study found that 7 percent of boys and 5 percent of girls were extremely obese. And even the babies are in trouble: more than 2 percent of all children under 5 years old were extremely obese!
There’s even a government Childhood Obesity Task Force.
What’s going to happen to our children?
- They die sooner: The co-author to the extreme obesity study, Corinna Koebnick, says, “Without major lifestyle changes, these kids face a 10 to 20 years shorter life span and will develop health problems in their 20s that we typically see in 40-to-60-year-olds.”
- Overweight kids have a lot more heart and troubles.
- Diabeties in kids is skyrocketing
- Increases in all the same health problems overweight adults experience: premature death, cancer, arthritis, sleep apnea, depression, etc.
- “Fat kids” get bullied more – almost twice as often.
And the solution? Everyone says it’s to eat less and exercise more. I would contend that you need to change it to “eat better and exercise more. ”
And it’s up to us, the parents. Kids will do what they see us do. They will eat what we eat. So, if you needed another little push to start some new healthier habits, think of the kids.
And I’ll know America has really changed, when the coupons for kids’ cereals have pictures of oatmeal and cracked wheat on them . . . even better, there’ll be coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables.