By M. Renee Edwards
TV commercials lure our kids into asking for junk food -– Crunch n’ Munch, Cracker Jacks, Chex Mix and Ritz Bits — contributing to and maybe even causing the growing trend for our young lean toward obesity. The American custom of popcorn (plus bon bons, licorice, or a hot dog) and a movie is probably a contributor as well; but whatever the reason, American kids’ love affair with junk food has a big payoff – our kids are becoming overweight in record numbers.
Research has shown that Chinese kids are pretty much the opposite, despite the fact that Chinese kids are watching more TV than ever due to economic gains in Chinese lifestyles. The difference probably has to do with the fact that in China, owning a television set is considered a luxury rather than a necessity. Information gleaned from a study conducted under Carrie Wood Waller, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, surveyed families in nine Chinese provinces to gather information on weight and the daily habits of some 1,400 rural and urban 9 to 11 year old Chinese children.
Through the research, it was shown that the average American child watches 15-20 hours plus of TV each week, while the average Chinese child watched only five hours per week. In addition, only 11% of Chinese boys and 7% of Chinese girls were considered obese in stark contrast to American kids where 30% of Latino children and 20% of African American kids were considered obese.
The difference seems to be firmly rooted in the kids’ snacking habits. Snacks made up a mere 8% of the Chinese kids’ total diet, with only 11% of them snacking at all. Yet, 91% of American kids eat snacks daily, and snacks equaled close to one-fourth (1/4) of their daily caloric intake.
Changes obviously need to be made in the eating habits of American kids. It might be a good idea for parents to use the Chinese as a model, and limit their children’s daily food intake to three square meals a day, period. If you do allow snacks, try making them healthy ones – like carrots and celery, or peanut butter (or cheese) and crackers, or fruit – rather than continuing to let kids have unlimited access to junk food and sodas.
The information gained from the study gives us some lifestyle changes to make for the future health of our children and if the changes are made, we can expect nothing less than leaner adults down the road.