No Wonder Our Children Are Obese: How The Term ‘Healthy’ Has Been Scrambled

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Child obesity isn’t showing any signs of letting up and as more schools make measures to outlaw sodas and ban chocolate milk, advocate fruit juice with just as many sugars and offer yogurts that trump the sugar content of cookies, I worry for what today’s kid’s even deem “healthy.”

Coaxing children to eat what is conducive to their growth has always been tricky, even days prior to Lunchables and Michelle Obama‘s “MyPlate.” But even if we obliterate the presence of the perplexing food pyramid in the classroom and simplify the notion of “portions” and “sugars” so that children can understand, they’re still getting so many mixed messages.

Even if you take a well-intentioned child with an interest in eating well, which I admit come few and far between, it’s nearly impossible for a child to navigate the terrain of what is allegedly “healthy.” A second-grader who reaches for kid-packaged yogurt for instance may think that he or she is making a healthful choice. Superficially, yogurt is not a fruit roll-up or potato chips or a variety of other salty, deep-fried snacks. And the child, who lacks the comprehension to pick apart nutrition labels, feels that they are making a good choice for their health. Yet, on picking through the nutrition facts on a Dannon “Danimals Smoothies” for example, the packaging cites that the products contains not high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, or flavors. Yet when peering through the fine print of the ingredients, the third ingredient is sugar.

This is just one example of a common trend that you’ll find in a the types of foods that many people, especially a child, would not initially group into junk food. Whole brands of breads, tomato sauces, soups, and yogurts  just to name a few can contain harmful amounts of sodium, high fructose corn syrup, and sugar with worlds like “healthy” shining deep and green from the packaging.

“Healthy” is not a policed term and is quite often slapped onto packages with soothing green labels and blue fonts to strategically give the suggestion of said product being good for you. Many children don’t have the comprehension, skills, interest, or the patience to go straight to the ingredients to actually understand what they’re eating — and from the looks of it, niether do some adults.

Bread that is teeming with additives but packaged with phrases like “full of whole grains!” and “full of fiber!” seem to be just fine with parents who aren’t setting a skeptical precedent for evaluating what is nutritious. Today’s children not only need to be schooled in concepts like portion size and nutrition, but also in developing a wariness regarding what they are told is beneficial to their health. If children are taught to trust advertising and labels without considering what is actually in their food, than “healthy” truly has lost its true meaning.