Obesity is much more than a ‘cosmetic’ concern; it increases your risk of diseases and health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.  More than 17 percent of children in the United States are now obese, according to the CDC, which is triple the rate from just one generation ago. The health risks associated with carrying excess weight throughout childhood are significant — a recent study found that the length of time a person carries excess weight directly contributes to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. This means that children today have an increased risk of developing diabetes at some point in their lives because they are expected to receive a larger lifetime “dose” of excess weight.

One of the factors that is believed to be contributing to childhood obesity is an increase in the intake of fatty and processed convenience foods.  Meals at fast food chains are often laden with fat and sugar—which quickly increase the calorie count of a meal. With this in mind, researchers recently decided to study how accurately parents would estimate the calorie content of their kid’s fast food meal at 5 popular chains: McDonalds, Wendy’s, Subway, KFC and Burger King.  They found that most parents–as much as 72 percent–underestimated the calorie count in their child’s meal!  The average meal that the children received for dinner contained 733 calories, but the parents estimated that they contained an average of just 562 calories. Almost one quarter of the parents underestimated by at least 500 calories. Studies such as these highlight the importance of parent education in addressing and reversing our climbing childhood obesity rate.

You can read strategies to keep your family healthy from the Let’s Move initiative here.