Physicians Committee Offers Solution to Help Treat and Prevent Childhood Obesity
The nonprofit Physicians Committee urges parents, pediatricians, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help children develop a preference for vegetables at a young age by serving and promoting plant-based entrées in their homes, lunch rooms, and for celebrations.
Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee and co-author of a new position paper about vegetarian diets from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, urges the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue to invest in public awareness programs to help prevent and treat childhood obesity, which affects one in six children.
"With the holidays approaching and with winter forcing many families indoors for the next several months, now is the perfect time to encourage families to celebrate and renew their health with nutrient-dense, plant-based meals," writes Levin to Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "By moving broccoli and beans to the center of a child's plate, we have the power to let dinner manifest into disease-fighting DNA."
The new position paper about vegetarian diets finds children who adopt a plant-based vegetarian or vegan diet early on in life develop a preference for whole fruits and vegetables over sugary and salty snacks, and consume less saturated and total fat.
The Active Learning Elementary School (TALES), P.S. 244Q, in Queens saw immediate benefits when broccoli, cucumbers, chickpeas, and black beans morphed into broccoli trees, cucumber salad, chickpea falafel, and Mexicali bean chili in their PreK-3 lunch line. Test scores rose, BMI levels fell, and attendance soared.
"As parents and educators, our job is to swap candy and cheeseburgers for all-natural beet burgers," notes Levin. "This helps promotes a healthy body weight, while reducing the risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and certain forms of cancer later on in life."
To further spread this preventive health message, Levin is also encouraging Benard P. Dreyer, M.D., F.A.P.P., the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, to share the latest research about plant-based diets with pediatricians.
To access a copy of the new AND position paper about vegetarian and vegan diets, visit EatRight.org.