Why you should target children in the fight against obesity
Even for low-income households, Fredericks says her methods allow families to create meals that can feed the family more than once in an economical way. The end result is cheaper, better nutrition for the whole family, she says.
“I get so happy for them because they’ve taken control of their health. It’s a big achievement because it’s not a crash diet. They’re taking control of their health in a sustainable way,” Fredericks says of her students that have lost weight and changed their lifestyles after participating in her program.
Many families are hesitant to make changes because so few parents have the time or skill to create meals at home these days, she says.
“We created a monster with convenience food. Now we have to dial it back,” Fredericks says. “It’s one of the single most insidious cultural problems that sets up families for failure.”
Antonia Demas, PhD, embarked on a journey similar to Fredericks more than 40 years ago when her son was small and she noticed that few educators were taking nutrition seriously.
Nutrition education can have an impact on so many facets of a child’s well-being, Demas says. She now runs an education program that works with local school districts to change the way students think about food.
“I use food to teach math, science, social studies, art, literature. I see food as the hands-on vehicle to teach all the academic subjects. It makes learning come alive for the students,” Demas says.
So many children suffer from chronic diseases and constipation that Demas says can be prevented through proper nutrition. By working with children in the social setting of their school, and teaching them the prevention properties of different foods, Demas says she can change their eating behaviors and invoke healthy behaviors.
Programs like this are important because parents cannot help their children when they themselves are ill-prepared to adopt healthier lifestyles.
“Most pediatricians and adults have not had nutrition education,” Demas says. “The parents are the gatekeepers and they should be real advocates, and this is why they need the knowledge themselves. They haven’t been taught how to read labels; how to go shopping; and learn about vitamins. Most adults have very confused concepts of real nutrition.”