A wake-up call to keep kids fit

By Carol Berg Sloan, RD

I don’t know about you, but I am thrilled that First Lady Michelle Obama has gotten on the bandwagon to bring the childhood obesity onto center stage with the Let’s Move Campaign (letsmove.gov). I sometimes wonder if Americans realize what a health crisis the number of overweight children is now and will be in the future. Here in Long Beach the most recent Childhood Obesity Fact Sheet shows:

In Long Beach in 2004, 16.6 percent of children ages 2 to 4 were at risk of being overweight, and 19.7 percent were overweight. In comparison, 16.3 percent of children ages 2 to 4 in California were at risk of overweight and 17.5 percent were overweight (2004 Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance).

In Long Beach in 2004, 19.5 percent of children ages 5 to 19 were at risk for being overweight, and 23.9 percent were overweight. In comparison, 18.3 percent of children ages 5 to 19 in California were at risk of overweight and 22.4 percent were overweight (2004 Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance).

In 2006–2007, 26.6 percent of Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) 5th graders, 39.7 percent of 7th graders and 44.2 percent of 9th graders did not score in the “Healthy Fitness Zone” for aerobic capacity in the California Physical Fitness Test. Aerobic capacity is considered “…the most important indicator of physical fitness” (CA Physical Fitness Test Results, CA Department of Education, 2006-2007).

44 percent of 7th graders, 50 percent of 9th graders and 46 percent of 11th graders surveyed in LBUSD stated that during the past 24 hours, they ate less than five servings of fruits and vegetables (CA Healthy Kids Survey, Long Beach Unified School District, Spring 2007).

When surveyed, 32.4 percent of children (2–17 years old) in Long Beach reported they ate fast food in the past 24 hours compared to 25.8 percent in LA County (Los Angeles County Health Survey, 2005).

Approximately 30 percent of LBUSD 7th, 9th and 11th graders ate fried potatoes (i.e., French fries or potato chips) during the past 24 hours. Approximately 15 percent of 7th, 9th and 11th graders ate fried potatoes two times in the past 24 hours (CA Healthy Kids Survey, Long Beach Unified School District, Spring 2007).

54 percent of 5th graders in LBUSD report that they are doing something to try and lose weight (CA Healthy Kids Survey, Long Beach Unified School District, Spring 2007).

These statistics are sobering and, I hope, a reminder to get your kids exercising daily and making wiser food choices. Don’t forget– you are their role models!

The statistics above indicated poor snack choices. Here is a recipe for a great homemade bar that you can make in large quantities so that it’s always on hand for hungry kids.

Apricot Bar Cookies
(Featured in the revised edition of The American Institute for Cancer Research The New American Plate Cookbook)
Canola oil cooking spray

1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/3 cup canola oil

5 tbsp. apple juice, divided

1/2 cup apricot jam, preferably fruit-sweetened

1 package (7 oz.) dried apricots, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. In large bowl, mix together oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda until well combined. In small bowl, whisk oil and 3 tablespoons juice together and pour over oat mixture, blending well until moist and crumbly. Reserve 3/4 cup for topping. Press the remainder evenly into prepared pan. In small bowl, blend jam with remaining 2 tablespoons apple juice. Stir in dried apricots. Spread evenly over crust. Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture over apricots, lightly pressing down with fingers. Bake 35 min. or until golden. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

Makes 16 bars. Per serving: 162 calories, 5 g total fat (<1 saturated fat), 28 g carbohydrate, 2 g protein, 2 g dietary fiber, 63 mg sodium.

food, Health, nutrition, Nutrition Nuggets

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