Research continues to show the benefits of good nutrition, yet many Americans still choose to eat unhealthy foods. A proper diet can lower the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, some cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis. Yet only about one in four American adults eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. And unfortunately, adults are not alone in the fight to eat right.
The following statistics show children’s poor dietary habits:
- Unhealthy eating habits are often established during childhood.
- Sixty percent of youth eat too much fat.
- Less than 20 percent of youth eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Choosing to eat unhealthy foods comes with a cost. Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and arteriosclerosis, fatty deposits of plaque in artery walls, often leads to heart disease. Evidence exists that arteriosclerosis begins in childhood and progresses into adulthood. Additionally, approximately 10 percent of adolescents have total cholesterol levels exceeding 200 mg/dL. However, if children reduce diets in saturated fat and cholesterol now, they will have the potential to decrease heart disease and other chronic diseases in their adult lives.
Studies also show that eating habits affect how children perform in school. The following statistics illustrate the academic problems associated with poor nutrition:
- Fourth grade students with the lowest achievement scores had the lowest amount of protein in their diets.
- Children ages 6-11, from families with inadequate food, had significantly lower arithmetic scores.
- Children ages 6-11 were more likely to repeat a grade if they came from families with inadequate food.
- Eating breakfast leads to higher math and reading scores, reduces absenteeism and tardiness, improves behavior and increases success in school.
Parents should be cautious when reducing the amount of calories their children intake. Growing children should not restrict calories; rather, they should increase physical activity and eat a variety of foods in the appropriate amounts.
Community Fitness & Education (CFEI) provides its Fitness Training Workshop to qualifying schools across the nation to help students learn about proper nutrition and necessary activity levels. Part of the workshop teaches students about healthy eating. The organization hopes the positive habits learned through the workshop will be carried into adulthood.