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What foods are linked with childhood obesity?
British researchers studied three-day food records of more than 4,600 kids in the UK at ages 7, 10, and 13, and analyzed which foods were most associated with excess weight gain. Most of their conclusions came as no big surprise: some of the foods most likely to be linked to weight gain were butter or margarine; breaded or battered poultry; potatoes cooked in oil (French fries, roasted potatoes, potato chips); breaded or battered ﬁsh; processed meats; other meats; desserts and sweets; milk; and sugar-sweetened beverages. Chicken nuggets and fries, anyone?
The only foods consistently linked with weight loss were whole grains and high-ﬁber cereals, suggesting that whole grains may be particularly important for youngsters struggling with their weight.
I thought of this recent study when I heard that scientists at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting last week reported that obese kids as young as 8 years old are now showing symptoms of heart disease. Researchers compared twenty normal-weight kids to twenty obese ones, and found that obese children had thicker heart muscles, which contracted less easily – both signs that the heart is being overworked.
The researchers speculated that kids even younger may be showing signs of heart damage – they just happened to look at eight year olds. A 2002 Gerber survey of 3,000 infants and toddlers found that French fries were one of the three most commonly eaten vegetables among the 9- to 11-month crowd and that 44% of these babies were drinking sweetened beverages by age 19 to 24 months. A follow-up survey In 2008 showed “decreased consumption of desserts and sweets from 6 to 21 months” but that diets were “still lacking in fruits, vegetables, essential fats, ﬁber – and whole grains.”
So bring on the whole grains, and pair them with some of those other healthy choices, with family-friendly ideas like these:
a healthy pasta meal, featuring whole grain pasta, lots of vegetables, and olive oil.
a savory stir-fry, full of vegetables, served over brown rice, quinoa, or any other whole grain.
a whole grain tortilla (wheat or corn), ﬁlled with beans, vegetables, lively spices and a little cheese
Show your kids you love them, by feeding them foods that love them back. (Cynthia)
Photos: Fotolia, Barilla (shells with roasted cauliﬂower and cherry tomatoes), National Barley Foods Council (Thai barley stir fry), and Kelly Toups (grilled veggie burrito).