Healthy Snacking

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The Importance of Making Healthy Snacking

Did you know that over 30% of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight or obese? (1) Obesity poses a serious threat and long term health issues that can follow into adulthood and lead to a variety of diseases. Obesity results from a of lack of proper nutrition and being influenced by advertisements and marketing tactics that target children and young adults to consume processed, sugary foods. Today, we will explore how and why there is an obesity epidemic in the United States along with the health concerns that arise as a result. We will also discuss the necessary steps we can take to prevent consuming foods that will cause illness in the future.

Why is it that over 30% of the youth in the U.S. is headed down the road of illness? A road, that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will potentially lead to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which are risk factors for heart disease, and even psychological problems like depression, low self-esteem and anxiety. (2) Let’s take a look at one of the leading causes of over consumption of sugary, processed snacks: Advertisements. Children between the ages of 8-18 are exposed to various kinds of media, social media, video games and television that advertise highly processed foods. (3) Think back to watching your favorite TV show or the Super Bowl. These programs are generally interrupted by a commercial, persuading you to purchase a food that looks absolutely delicious on the television screen.

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Think about it- you’ve definitely seen commercials for the snacks that you find yourself reaching for in the grocery store. Foods and drinks like Starburst, Cheetos, Doritos, and Pepsi are just a few of the hundreds of items advertised on the news that are partially to blame for our country's obesity epidemic. Marketing tactics like catchy slogans and jingles, and visuals of perfectly crisp potato chips that make consumers drool and crave their product. Companies use these tactics to deceive our population into consume unhealthy foods without warnings of the long term effects.

The obesity epidemic is also a result of the lack of knowledge surrounding the consequences of consuming highly processed and sugary foods. Corporations do their best to mask the true health costs of consuming their products. Studies shows that the trend of children choosing chips, cookies and sweets on an average of about three times a day (4) proves that the effect of advertising has been mounting for decades. The United States Department of Agriculture, states that the snacks children consume provide about 37% of their daily energy, but only about 15%-30% of the necessary nutrients. (1) Overweight children consume about 1000 more calories per day than what’s required. (3) What tactics can we implement that will prevent an increase in the obesity epidemic in our children and ourselves?

The first step is to make mindful choices with our food and become well versed on the effects of consuming sugary and processed foods. Eating foods like fruits, dried fruits, yogurt and nuts are all much healthier options than chips, cookies or candy. Snacking on healthier alternatives not only make you feel better in the present, but will help you maintain optimal health in the long term as well. Other options for maintaining a healthy weight and body include getting about 30-minutes of exercise per day. Adapting healthier food and lifestyle habits might seem challenging but it is important to keep your long term health goals in mind. Together we can fight one of America’s biggest health problems, and prevent it negatively affecting our communities.  

Surena Harinath

References:

1) Snacking for a Cause: Nutritional Insufficiencies and Excesses of U.S. Children, a Critical Review of Food Consumption Patterns and Macronutrient and Micronutrient Intake of U.S. Children

Julie Hess and Joanne Slavin
 

2) https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/causes.html

3)NCCOR Childhood Obesity in United States http://www.nccor.org/downloads/ChildhoodObesity_020509.pdf

4)Health Affairs By Carmen Piernas and Barry M. Popkin

Trends In Snacking Among U.S. Children