Despite widespread effort and attention to helping consumers make changes, the statistics are still shocking. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the rate of childhood obesity has more than doubled for children, and quadrupled for adolescents, in the past 30 years.1
While there is progress—in young children, rates have declined during the last decade—obesity rates in other age groups continue to rise or stay the same.2 Over 30 percent of American children are considered overweight or obese. These children are at a much higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea—as well as for emotional issues that arise from being overweight.
While the causes, as well as the solutions, are multifaceted, research shows that much can be done to improve children’s nutrition. In a recent study, children’s actual diets were compared to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The study found that most children and adolescents are failing to meet the recommended servings for most food groups.3
Improving children’s diets is important. And there are nutrients in seafood that are critical for children’s growth and development. These nutrients can help minimize chronic disease risk later in life. Protein, B vitamins, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids (especially DHA and EPA) are key nutrients in seafood that promote healthy growth and development throughout childhood. Seafood serves as an excellent source of:
- Lean protein, which is essential for a child’s body development, especially during times of rapid growth
- Protein is found in every body cell
- Protein is necessary for the continuous repair and growth of tissues including bone, skin, and muscles as well as enzymes and hormones
- B vitamins, which aid in regulating metabolism, energy production, and blood and nervous system development
- Vitamin D, which is necessary for building bones and teeth, and assists in the absorption of calcium; for its role in supporting respiratory health, emerging research is promising
- Omega-3s, which are especially important for growing children, since a child’s brain continues to grow and develop throughout childhood, especially the frontal lobe areas that are responsible for planning, problem solving and paying attention
- DHA is the primary fatty acid found in this area of the brain
- Some research has shown that children with low DHA levels who receive supplements show improvement on cognitive tests as well as improvements in reading, spelling and behavioral health4
Seafood, like StarKist® tuna and salmon, includes all the nutrients discussed above and naturally combines with other healthful foods for delicious meal options for the whole family. Children, as well as adults, should be encouraged to consume two to three servings of seafood a week.
Feeding children, whether infants, toddlers or adolescents, can be a challenge for parents and caregivers. With small stomachs, and particular food preferences, kids often struggle to get the right nutrients. Everyone from parents, to teachers, to coaches, to health professionals can play a role in promoting good eating habits. In doing so, they can help halt the high rates of childhood obesity.
Use the resources provided in The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015. Encourage your clients to shift to healthier eating habits by incorporating a variety of nutritious foods—like seafood—into their families’ diets on a regular basis.
1Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm
2Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of Childhood and Adult Obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA.2014;311(8):806-814. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.732.
3Banfield, EC et al. Poor Adherence to US Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Population. J Aca Nutr Diet. 2016; 116:21-27.
4Kuratko, CN, et al. The Relationship of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) with Learning and Behavior in Healthy Children: A Review. Nutrients 2013; 5: 2777-2810; doi:10.3390/nu5072777