Monday, May 24, 2010

Meatless Monday - Child Obesity

I don't know if you've noticed but a lot of children in this country are overweight or maybe it is just here in Texas (5 cities in Texas made the top 10 fattest cities in the country. Pretty sorry statistic isn't it?). I don't know what is causing this trend (I have my suspicions) but as parents we have a responsibility to try our best to stop it. I suspect that a lot of the upward movement in children's weight has to do with the preponderance of processed foods and fast food but I could be wrong.

I was really lucky. Neither one of my boys have suffer a weight problem. This is probably due to the fact that:
1. We had no money for prepared foods. Everything we ate I made from scratch.
2. We had enough property to grow a large garden even if it meant digging up a good portion of the backyard or even the front yard. (Ask my mom, she had a very sunny front yard, we didn't. We dug up parts of her flower beds to put in a veggie garden for all of us. Tomato plants can be lovely when mixed with flowers that bugs don't like.)
3. Going to a fast food place was a luxury and a real sit down place was a once a year special occasion.
4. Washington State has very few buffets.
5. Meat of any kind was considered a luxury item. Since, we couldn't grow it we didn't eat much of it. When we did eat it it was in very small amounts. Sort of like Thomas Jefferson. Who said "meat is the sauce for my vegetables". Recipes that called for a pound of hamburger I used a half a pound or less. When I gave up meat for health reasons the whole family ate even less.

Cutting some of the meat from your and your child's diet doesn't have to mean less nutrition. There are plenty of vegetarian adults and children who are healthier and weigh less than meat eating children. Then again if not done right there are some fat vegetarians but on average they usually weigh less. I'm not going to preach about vegetarianism or tell you that if you are not a vegetarian you are evil (I'll leave that to PETA. They seem to have cornered the market on guilt and crazy with emphasis on crazy) what I will say is that prepared foods, fast food, and a diet that emphasizes meat as the main ingredient is just not very good for you.

My friend Candy (another librarian) and I have put together a bunch of articles and websites by sources that are NOT, Vegetarian Times, or (god forbid) PETA that might shed some light on nutrition, vegetarianism, and children's health. Visit one, some, none, or all of them to get informed about how cutting some, none or all of the meat from your and your child's diet.

Direct quotes are in italics.

Nutrition For Kids by: The Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine
People who maintain a healthy weight throughout life stay well and live longer than those who are overweight. The lifestyle habits that help keep us slim—exercise and a healthy diet—also cut our risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers.

Guidelines for Proper Nutrition for Vegetarian Kids by: Sue Gilbert‚ M.S.‚ Nutritionist ON Jul 22, 1999

Read More

Kids Health from Nemours
Vegetarianism is a popular choice for many individuals and families. But parents may wonder if kids can safely follow a vegetarian diet and still get all necessary nutrients. Most dietary and medical experts agree that a well-planned vegetarian diet can actually be a very healthy way to eat.

Teen Vegetarians; Facts for Parents

The University of Maine Extension Service answers questions about whether teens will get enough nutrients, where to find protein sources, and how to help your teen eat healthy.

United States Department of Agriculture has a wonderful collection of links about vegetarian nutrition.; a Pediatricians guide to your children's health and safety. Is another site that discusses health and vegetarian diets. Parents, especially if they are vegetarians, can feel reassured that they can safely raise their kids to be vegetarians too.

Vegetarian diets and childhood obesity prevention by Joan Sabaté and Michelle Wien American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, doi:10.3945/ajcn.2010.28701F
Vol. 91, No. 5, 1525S-1529S, May 2010

Epidemiologic studies indicate that vegetarian diets are associated with a lower body mass index (BMI) and a lower prevalence of obesity in adults and children. A meta-analysis of adult vegetarian diet studies estimated a reduced weight difference of 7.6 kg for men and 3.3 kg for women, which resulted in a 2-point lower BMI (in kg/m2). Similarly, compared with nonvegetarians, vegetarian children are leaner, and their BMI difference becomes greater during adolescence. Studies exploring the risk of overweight and food groups and dietary patterns indicate that a plant-based diet seems to be a sensible approach for the prevention of obesity in children.

I hope you found a bit of it informative. (Jan, I know that getting The Young One to eat anything resembling a vegetable might be an impossibility. Some kids are like that. He also, doesn't look like he's in trouble weight wise though)

What do you do that helps you and your child keep that pesky weight off?

I'll have a recipe next week. I know I've been negligent. All I can say is I've been on the road a lot. (excuses, excuses) I do have a pasta recipe that I had The Boy make while I was at work that the guys have been bugging me to make again. They do love their homemade pasta. Best of is dead on easy!

Have a great Monday everyone,


  1. We just don't eat a lot of meat, never have. Especially now that it's just me and the one daughter. She doesn't like it. Even when the other 2 kids are home, it's maybe 3 times a week.
    The nice thing about Martha's Vineyard is that there are no fast food franchises and our DQ doesn't serve food, just ice cream.

  2. Hey now...I lost 100 pounds eating nothing but meat and veggies. It's not all bad. No, really. But as a kid, even going out for fast food was a luxury. Oh and one other thing that kept us relatively fit as kids...

    We played outside from sun up til' sundown. Cheers Michele!!

  3. Princess Nagger has an aversion to vegetables - except corn on the cob. That she loves. She used to willingly eat broccoli until she saw a cartoon that made fun of it calling it small trees. Ever since then she refuses to eat the small trees. I try to sneak veggie stuff into what I make so she has no clue - you know, that spinach really is just basil. ;) Luckily, though, she's very active and apparently has inherited the high metabolism hubby has - she was borderline underweight (but healthy) for her 6 year check up, and 'just right' for her 7 year check up. I need to take a page from her book and eat small meals all day - and run around more. Maybe my 7 year baby fat would finally disappear. ;)

  4. I'm with Matt-Man on this one - some of us do better on a diet with plenty of protein, good fats and few carbohydrates. And there is more and more evidence that the huge amounts of sugar - especially high fructose corn syrup - as well as PUFAs in the standard American diet is a large culprit in the growing problem of obesity and Type II diabetes.

  5. I have cut meat almost all the way out of my diet. When I do eat it, it's cooked beyond the point of recognition anyhow, so I don't know why I bother.

    Buffets are the worst for overeating, aren't they?

  6. You are absolutely right about the link between processed food and obesity. That's why Europeans tend to be skinnier - they eat fresh foods. We really don't eat much meat, though we do eat a lot of fish. But I'm afraid that Jude LOVES meat. He's a total carnivore. I'm hoping that as he gets older his tastes will change. I try. I really do.

  7. Here is a 4 minute video on an option that I think can work for many Americans:

    and speaking of processed foods & high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), did you hear that Hunt's is dropping HFCS from it's ketchup and it has only 5 ingredients, all of which are recognizable & pronounceable! Here's a short article, a very informative read:

  8. Val: thanks for the cool links. It's about time that food got back to being real food and not stuff with unpronounceable names.

  9. Does part of that diet include sending our kids to your house in TX for nutrition lessons (and free babysitting?).

    Graham is BIG kid, not yet 3 1/2 and already 42 lbs but he's solid, not fat. I plan on keeping him active though, I don't want him to turn into an overweight video game playing kid.

  10. You have the best links and research over here. I am coming back to this post this summer while I plan my shopping menus.

    I try not to eat meat more than 3 days per week, but my son andhusband like meat with every meal. I am always trying to fnd creative ways to get them eating less meat.

  11. I think the activity level these days says a lot about the way kids are trending to fat, but I am beginning to imagine a garden in my backyard.

  12. Thanks Michele, this is very timely! We have been making some changes around here. I think I am turning into a health nut.

    Your blog is such a great food resource.

  13. It's all the fast food and the processed food and tv and video games and lack of exercise and...