By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
According to the Colorado Department of Health, too many children in the state are obese due to lack of exercise and poor nutrition.
At a local level, Susan Bowler, a nurse at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, agreed that more attention needs to be paid to children's health.
"There's a decreased activity level amongst children today," she said. "They need to get away from the television and video games and get outside and play."
Diane Fulton, a nutritionist with the Colorado Department of Health, cited 25 percent of children in the United States as being obese and 60 percent of adults as being obese.
"We have an epidemic of obesity in the United States that threatens the health and the quality of our lives and those of our children," she said.
It is important that children are urged to maintain healthy life-styles at a young age, she said.
"Because habits children learn while they are young tend to carry into adulthood, it is important that children develop healthy eating habits early," she said. "Unfortunately, many parents do not believe excess weight is a problem unless they think it affects their child's self-esteem. Many overweight children not only suffer from low self-esteem, but are at high risk for chronic diseases in their adulthood."
Examples of diseases that can develop later in life as a result of obesity include diabetes and heart disease.
Bowler is involved with the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program at the V.N.A.
Through the WIC program, Bowler said one problem they see with children's diets is that they are given too much juice.
"Juice is high in calories and nothing else," she said. "And it has a lot of sugars."
There is a misconception about the benefits of drinking a lot of juice as a child.
"WIC recommends four ounces of juice a day maximum," she said. "Instead of juice, children should be given fruit because then they get other nutrients like fiber."
Fulton provided several guidelines that parents and healthcare providers can follow in helping children establish healthy lives:
Serve children a variety of nutritious food choices.
Let children choose what and how much food to eat. This helps them learn to listen to their internal cues for hunger and fullness.
Encourage children to make healthy choices without pressuring them.
Have adults in a child care center or family child care home eat with the children and model healthy eating behavior.
Implement a policy that discourages parents from sending their children to the center with junk food.
Participate in physical activities with children.