Parents who have boycotted fast food chains like McDonald's, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken, but allow their kids to eat whatever else they want and think they are doing their children a favor have another thing coming. While avoiding these restaurants is certainly a step in the right direction, it's critical to pay close attention to their kids' diet in general. Researchers at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health have concluded that dietary habits play a major role in the massive child obesity problem across the United States.
"Eating fast foods is just one behavior that results from those bad habits," said Barry Popkin, professor of nutrition at UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health and leader of the study. "Just because children who eat more fast food are the most likely to become obese does not prove that calories from fast foods bear the brunt of the blame."
Parents must enforce a more balanced diet
Believing fast food consumption for a child's obesity problem is simply an excuse, according to Popkin and his team. The researchers evaluated nearly 4,500 children in the age range of 2 to 18 for roughly three years. Over this time period, the study showed that the subjects demonstrated several unhealthy behaviors:
- Relying heavily on large quantities of processed food and sugar-sweetened beverages
- Consuming low amounts of fruits and vegetables
- Making poor dietary choices while in school
"The study presented strong evidence that the children's diet beyond fast food consumption is more strongly linked to poor nutrition and obesity," said Jennifer Poti, doctoral candidate in UNC's Department of Nutrition. "While reducing fast food intake is important, the rest of a child's diet should not be overlooked."
Healthy children have a solid mix of exercise and good eating habits
While many parents may now be making a conscious effort to get their kids eating right at a young age, it's also important to remember that children should get about an hour of exercise each day. Childhood obesity expert Melinda Sothern told USA Today that one easy way to ensure that kids are getting the proper amount of physical activity is simply to get children to play games and take part in sports. She cited statistics that show kids can burn 10 times more calories per hour when they are active rather than sitting around.
Some children may need extra motivation to begin exercising. This is when parents may want to get their kids enrolled in martial arts classes. Instructors of Karate, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Tae Kwon Do classes not only teach children self defense techniques, they also stress the importance of being in good physical shape.
Each course includes aerobic activity that can help kids get the recommended amount of exercise on a daily basis. Starting martial arts classes and a healthy diet provides children with the chance to improve their fitness levels and fight back against the obesity problem sweeping the nation.