Obesity and Making Healthy Food Choices
Since the 1970s, the number of overweight and obese children of all ages has sharply increased. For children ages 2–5, the increase in both has more than doubled in the past 20 years. It is important to note that nearly one out of three children is overweight or obese in the United States. Serious short-term and long-term consequences result from obesity, including the increased risk for disorders such as hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and sleep apnea.
Why Are Our Children Obese?
Several changes in the way we live contribute to childhood obesity. Children’s physical activity has markedly decreased, and their more sedentary activities, such as watching TV and playing video and computer games, have increased. We also eat food prepared away from home much more often, and many restaurants serve increasingly larger portions of food (See Building Blocks’ “Portion Distortion”).
As caregivers and educators, you can help children and their families develop healthy eating habits.
To help students recognize and appreciate the diversity in foods and to discover new snacks.
- Building Blocks for a Healthy Future Sing-Along Songs: “Healthy Snacks”
- CD player or computer with speakers
- Large sheet of chart paper
- Construction paper, glue or paste, and markers and/or crayons for each student
- Old magazines that have colorful pictures of food
- Building Blocks for a Healthy Future Activity Book: Healthy Snacks, pp. 10 and 22
Note: Page 10 is for ages 3–4, and page 22 is for ages 5–6
- Handout: “Dear Parents”
Set up the computer and speakers or the CD player. (If you are using the Building Blocks website, project the lyrics if possible.) Title the large sheet of chart paper: “Healthy Snacks.” Make a copy of the appropriate Healthy Snacks page from the Activity Book for each child.
1. Play “Healthy Snacks” for the class. Encourage children to begin singing along immediately, especially during the repeated chorus. Ask: What healthy snacks do you already eat? Answers may include fruit, nuts, whole grain crackers and cookies, peanut butter, cheese. Write these on the large sheet of chart paper. Talk about the kinds of snacks they eat at school.
Note: If students name snacks that are not good for them—candy, doughnuts, cake, etc., say that these are nice treats every once in a while, but don’t include them on the chart of healthy snacks.
2. Distribute the construction paper, glue/paste, markers and/or crayons, and one or two magazines to small groups of students. Have students cut out pictures of foods they heard in the song or that they think would be a good snack. Ask them to glue or paste these pictures onto the construction paper. Work with the groups to label their cutout pictures. Have the groups present their construction paper posters and discuss why each food pictured is a healthy snack.
4. Give each child a copy of the Healthy Snacks page from the Activity Book to take home to complete as a family activity. Have them bring back their completed activities to create a class list of favorite snacks or a class book of recipes.
Have the students sing the “Healthy Snack” song once again. Work as a class to add a verse or two to represent some of the foods pictured on the students’ construction paper posters.
- "Childhood Overweight and Obesity," from CDC, gives an overall view of the problem of childhood overweight and obesity in the United States, including severe health risks.
- "Childhood Obesity," from the Mayo Clinic, explores the causes, risk factors, and complications resulting from childhood obesity, with tips on prevention and coping with and supporting your child’s move toward healthy eating.
- "Childhood Obesity," from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, offers a detailed discussion of the change in childhood eating habits and activity levels and the impact on children’s health.