Childhood Obesity: Parenting a Better Solution than Manufacturing
Getting kids to eat healthy nutrient-rich food starts early, according to Disease Proof Your Child too many parents allow their children to consume the standard American diet. Consequently kids grow up rejecting fresh produce and opting for empty-calorie processed foods. Dr. Fuhrman explains:
The unnaturally high level of sugar, salt, and artificially heightened flavors in processed (fake) foods will lessen or deaden the sensitivity of the taste buds to more subtle flavors, making natural food taste flat. For example, the higher the salt content of your diet, the more your taste buds lose their ability to taste salt. After your taste has toned down its sensitivity to salt, salty things don't taste so salty and your deadened taste buds have lost the ability to enjoy the subtle flavorings in more delicately flavored natural foods. Vegetables have less flavor, fruit isn't as sweet, and nuts taste like wood after just one month of over stimulation with industrial-designed flavors.
Dr. Fuhrman urges that unless parents instill healthy eating habits in their children early on, kids are unlikely to make good dietary selections later:
Kids will not develop the intellectual maturity to consume broccoli and peas instead of French fries and pizza for their health. The more subtle flavors of natural food can't compete. The pizza, pasta, cheese, burger, and soft drink diet will win over the fruit-vegetable-nut diet seven days a week.
This dilemma has health agencies grasping at straws for answers. The New York Times reports the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services are turning to the wrong place for help the processed food industry. Melanie Warner reports:
The report, from the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services, urges food companies to develop products that are more nutritious and to "review and revise" its marketing practices. It also suggests that the Children's Advertising Review Unit, which was set up by the industry, consider creating minimum nutrition standards for foods advertised to children.
Consumer groups hailed the report as a step in the right direction. "This is the first acknowledgment by the F.T.C. that there should be nutrition standards for food that's marketed to kids," said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nutrition advocacy group and frequent critic of junk-food marketing.
But producers claim they are already doing their part:
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, a lobbying group that represents packaged food manufacturers, said that the food industry had already undertaken "initiatives to help families improve their health and wellness." The changes, the group says, include new and reformulated products that are healthier, products that are portion-controlled to have just 100 calories and the addition of "healthy lifestyle messages" on food package labels.
Is it really a good idea to rely on the food producers to come up with solutions? Dr. Fuhrman insists if parents really want kids to eat better, the change has to happen in the home:
If you are committed to your child eating healthfully, there is only one way to do--it make your home off-limits to processed food and low-nutrient foods. No white flour products, no cheese, no sweeteners, no ready-to-eat cereal, no fruit juice, no chips, no junk.