A new study and a new label

In the New York Times this morning, results of a scary new study about childhood obesity:

the thickness of artery walls of children and teenagers who are obese or have high cholesterol resembled the thickness of artery walls of an average 45-year-old.

Beyond scary when you consider:

Childhood obesity is considered an epidemic in the United States, with about 16 percent of children ages 2 to 19 considered obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the number of new cases of childhood obesity appears to be leveling off, some experts say they are now seeing an increase in Type 2 diabetes in children, which they believe is a consequence of increased obesity.

What is a parent to do? DON’T wait for the new “Smart Choices Program” labels due out in 2009 – meant to simplify nutrition information, it not only dumbs it down, but it contains many loopholes. (An excellent summary can be found on the Daily Spark.) The biggest clue to why it’s not reliable may be found by reading the list of participating companies – they’re known for their marketing savvy, NOT their care for the American public’s health.

If you’re savvy about nutrition, read the nutrition data table on the package. Better yet, check out the ingredient list with your child and ask the following questions (Thanks to GrowingGreat for this simple strategy – full disclosure: I now volunteer for this excellent organization!):

  1. Can you pronounce all the ingredients? No? Then stop here – you and your children don’t need to eat it. Yes? Then continue.
  2. Is it long (over 5 ingredients)?
  3. Are there artificial colors or flavors?
  4. Are there added sugars (particularly more than 1) – good clues to look for are juices, malt, syrups, anything that ends in -ose?
  5. Is there hydrogenated oil of any kind?

If you answered “yes” to any of questions 2-5, you’re better off leaving it on the shelf. Better yet, if you really need the item in question, make it from scratch so you KNOW what goes in it!

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