By Dr. Anthony Ferrara
I visited my family over the weekend, and as Italians, of course we cook and eat well.
I was proud that everyone enjoyed my mother’s cooking, and she was happy that everyone finished their plates and were full at the end of the meal. But, I also noted that my nephews were enjoying that cooking a bit too much since they are all overweight.
So, I spent the weekend trying to figure out why? Was it a family gene or an unhealthy behavior pattern causing this problem?
After observing everyone for a couple of days, I concluded that it was bad behavior on the part of adults and the children themselves that contributed to the unhealthy eating patterns.The children would get their usual meals, but they were also allowed to snack, before, during and after their meals. When I asked the adults about this, they answered me that the kids were always hungry and needed to be fed. I do agree that growing children need a lot of nutrition, but there was no control over what they would eat, the amounts or what type of snack they would eat. I noted that this pattern of overfeeding, and feeding non-nutritious food to, the children was the same in other families who also had overweight children.
Obesity in some cultures might be a sign of prosperity and health, but in reality it’s not healthy and will lead to many problems later on in life. The more years children go on being overweight, the much harder it is for them to lose it later in life.
The prevention should come from home and the parents on a daily basis. Here are some simple steps that parents and caregivers can take every day to help prevent childhood obesity:
1. Control the portions
2. Provide quality food and healthy options
3. Monitor a child’s overall calorie and fat intake
4. Do not let children get in a pattern of eating anytime or any type of food they want to eat
5. Limit fast food and “junk food” (remember, there is a reason it’s called “junk” food).
We should all work harder to keep America healthy by preventing the diseases that are within our control.
Childhood obesity is one of those preventable diseases, and each of us has a responsibility to our children to teach them how to be healthier in every aspect of their lives.