In the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report to the President, issued May 2010, the relatively high price of fresh fruits and vegetables is suggested as one possible contributing factor in today’s childhood obesity epidemic. Indeed, the highest incidence of obesity takes place in low-income neighborhoods. Poor children in America aren’t starving to death – they’re eating themselves to death by loading up on high-calorie, low-nutrition foods.
The Task Force recommends changes to national policies that they hope will reduce the price of healthy foods while making unhealthy foods more expensive. They want to level the playing field as far as food prices go because they believe that Americans will choose healthy foods when given that choice. The stated goal of their report is to solve the problem of childhood obesity in the U.S. within a generation.
But You Can’t Wait a Generation
You can’t wait until their policies take effect. Your children are growing up now. The Task Force recommends big-picture changes that will steer the country in the right direction, but the change in direction will happen slowly, like an ocean liner fighting the tide to turn around. You’re more nimble. You can move fast. By acting now, you can make an immediate impact on your children’s health.
Can you afford to feed your kids fruits and vegetables?
The better question is: Can you afford not to?
While you’re budgeting for your family meals, consider this. The financial cost of childhood obesity is likely to be much higher than making healthy choices at the grocery store. Buying fruits and vegetables may be slightly more expensive than buying processed foods, but in the long run, you’ll save money when you eat healthy.
Childhood Obesity Is Expensive
Overweight kids are more likely to suffer from a host of medical problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, and more. Don’t allow your eyes to simply brush past those words. Stop and think about what you’re doing to your children when you allow them to get fat. In extreme cases, each of these health issues can lead to death. They will certainly lead to more visits to the doctor and the drugstore, which will cost you more money.
Children who don’t eat a healthy diet often have difficulty academically. They need the proper nutrients in order to focus. They simply can’t concentrate. Weigh the cost of healthy food against the cost of hiring a tutor or shelling out for after-school programs, and the choice becomes a little easier.
Many obese children suffer from low self-esteem, which can lead to behavioral problems in school, at home, and in public. A poorly behaved child is by definition more destructive than a well behaved child, and you as the parent will pay for that destruction in one way or another. If low self-esteem leads to depression, as it often does, you may find yourself paying for counseling, as well.
If you still think you can’t afford to pay a little extra for the fruits, vegetables, and whole grains your children need, take a good, long look at how you spend your money. You love your children. You would die for them. You’re willing to sacrifice your life for them, but are you willing to sacrifice cable TV? Are you willing to sacrifice your cell phone?
Nothing is more important than the wellbeing of your children.
Dr. Marta Katalenas, M.D.