Childhood Obesity: Promote Health, Prevent Problems

Preteen smiling as doctor checks him with a stethoscope How many times did you hear it growing up? “Comete todo.” Eat everything on your plate. Latinos have a hard time allowing children to leave the table without clearing their plate. And more, they feel that if their children are skinny, they’re unhealthy. Plump is healthy, in the eyes of many but at what point does it get to be too much?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 17 percent of children in the United States are obese, which calculates to 12.5 million children between 2-19 years of age. When it comes to obesity among low-income, pre-school children, about one-third of them are either overweight or obese before the age of 5.

Latino children from the ages of 2-4 have the second highest rate of obesity with 17.9 percent, after American Indian and Alaskan Native with 20.7 percent.

What are the cultural influences?

The majority of Latinos who emigrate to the United States are poor in their home countries and leave for a better life. The opportunity to have a vast array of food is seen as plentiful but at the same time, not the healthiest choices. Eating fast food, or food that isn’t necessarily healthy in the grocery store, becomes cultural and ingrained within Latino households and lifestyles. At the same time, food is cooked in the same manner as it was “back home” yet the choices for food in the U.S. aren’t the healthiest, filled with more preservatives and added chemicals that can cause additional weight gain.