Our View: Big deal

First Posted: 9/13/2012

According to Sarah Mammarella, Family and Consumer Sciences agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, 42 percent of children younger than 18 in Richmond County are overweight, and 24 percent are obese.

These are depressing and shocking numbers.

We’re not talking about a few chubby kids who’ve had a few too many helpings of chili fries with their super-sized Mt. Dew.

Nearly one quarter of our children are obese.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity now affects 17 percent of all children and adolescents in the United States — triple the rate from just one generation ago.

September is Childhood Obesity Prevention Month, and what better time to step away from the all-you-can-eat buffet.

“We need to start small changes amongst these high risk youth in order to combat the obesity problem and help reduce their risks of chronic diseases in the future,” said Mammarella.

“Some easy changes that can be made in families include reducing or eliminating sugary drinks (such as sodas and sweet tea) from our children’s diets, reading nutrition labels and paying attention to appropriate serving/portion sizes, and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption,” she said.

It’s easier than you might think, and if you can get a young motivator in your family like Zoie McSwain, an 8 year old we met doing a story on childhood obesity, then you’ll have plenty of motivation to alter your ways.

Melodie McSwain of Rockingham said her family has taken steps toward a healthier lifestyle through her daughter Zoie’s participation in Food S.T.U.F.F., a five-week class created by FirstHealth of the Carolinas, in partnership with Cooperative Extension.

Zoie took the class this past summer and was inspired to start eating foods with a higher nutritious value.

The class, directed toward young children, focused on the importance of making healthy food choices such as fruit, vegetables, grains, proteins and fats and dairy and drinks. Each class had a lesson followed by a hands-on healthy recipe that was given to kids.

“Zoie would go for an hour each week and come home with a Ziplock bag with some new food she made, like trail mix or a vegetable wrap with low fat dressing that was homemade,” said Melodie.

After her daughter’s first class, she said Zoie wanted to help the entire family stay healthy.

“Zoie likes to cook anyway, so she enjoyed it,” Melodie said. “She came home telling me about the healthy foods we needed to be eating and I realized how much junk we had in the house. She wanted to go grocery shopping with food charts they gave her, so we posted the chart on the fridge and started looking at what we weren’t getting each day that we should be. We cleaned our cabinets and got rid of sodas, cookies, chips, and went to the grocery store and revamped our whole idea.”

Let’s let Zoie’s inspiration spread beyond the McSwain kitchen.

Open up those cupboards and dump the junk. Say goodbye to soda and Little Debbie, and hello to healthier days.

To learn more, visit http://www.fitness.gov.