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Griffin to Go: Kids and Diet, Good News and Bad News

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What's healthy for a child and what's too much?

Parents, dietitians and probably even a few kids were surprised this past week when McDonald’s announced that it would be changing its Happy Meal by reducing the size of its fries and by adding apples to the mix. The new meal, which debuts in September, features 20 percent fewer calories and less fat than before, but it still comes with a toy. (I can hear a few kids breathing easier. The ones who hate apple slices will likely ignore them the same way that those who don’t care for pickle on their burgers simply have them removed.)

The chain announced that the change comes after in-depth interviews with parents and guardians as well as children. And the news comes on the heels of reports that potatoes, especially fried ones, are likely to add to your girth.

Is a child’s order of fries going to make that much difference? Sadly, it could.

The number of obese children in America has doubled over the past 30 years, says PeoplesHealth.com, which goes on to offer a few more facts :

  • “There is alarming increase in the number of children and adolescents developing type-2 diabetes (also termed as adult-onset diabetes) due to being overweight.
  • “The high levels of cholesterol and high blood pressure that are some of the main risk factors for development of heart diseases are found in most of the obese children.
  • “Sleep apnea (interruption of breath while sleeping) is considered as the most severe problem faced by obese children. In rare cases, this sleep apnea may lead to other problems like difficulty in learning and memory.
  • “Obese children are on higher risk of developing liver diseases, orthopedic problems and asthma.
  • “More than 70 percent obese adolescents retain their overweight and obese condition even during their adulthood.”

In other words, too many kids these days are eating themselves into an early grave. So many, in fact, that a doctor from the Harvard-associated Children’s Hospital Boston is advocating the removal of children from their homes if they are so obese that their lives are in danger. He wasn’t speaking of any obese kid, but those whose medical condition has been neglected to the point that it becomes a form of child abuse.

When I was growing up, children were told to eat their rutabagas, no matter how bitter, or those nasty sweet potatoes in an orange cup because of “the starving children in China.” Nowadays, we have to tell children not to eat too much, because of “the children in Boston who are eating themselves to death.”

Something is broke. Adding apples to a meal isn’t going to fix it, but it’s a start.

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