Boca Health


School Lunch and Childhood Obesity


In recent years, the medical community has been highly concerned with the growing rates of childhood obesity. Children in America are facing complications that once occurred in the later years of adulthood, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, due to their increase in weight. There are various factors that lead a child to become obese; it is not only a lack of exercise as many believe. Nutritionally inadequate diets that lack protein and an individual child’s inability to metabolize certain foods are causing children to become overweight or obese as early as age two. The obesity trend is triggered by a widespread detrimental aspect present in various diets—simple carbohydrates. The cafeteria lunches, that school children consume, are an alarming and unfortunate example of why children are at such unhealthy weights.

The Problem

A major problem with school lunch is the fact that they provide children with a lot of “cheap calories” and not enough protein. Simple carbohydrates are processed quickly within the body and do not sustain fullness. Depending on a child’s metabolic rate, they may feel hungry shortly after lunch. Certain children may be genetically unable to process these carbohydrates, so their bodies turn them directly into fat. The simple carbohydrates found in bread, pizza, pasta, and other processed baked goods can either be digested fairly quickly by a child with a very high metabolism, or may be turned into fat by those with a slower metabolic rate. These simple carbohydrates are causing school children to be either underweight or overweight.

The Solution

Cafeteria lunches may be improved if they offered more protein and complex carbohydrates. Growing children from ages 4 to 13 need to receive 40% of their daily calories from protein-rich foods. Protein is not produced by the body so it must be obtained through food, and it is a necessary nutrient for proper muscular development of elementary aged children. By eating the right amount of protein, children’s bodies produce more muscle and less fat. Sufficient amounts of protein benefit underweight children as well, since their body produces more necessary muscle tissue. In addition, protein keeps bodies fueled for longer than simple starches.

Complex carbohydrates also keep children full and provide more nutrition than simple carbohydrates. Vegetables are the best source of complex carbohydrates. A child should consume plenty of vegetables. The complex carbohydrates found in vegetables fuel the body efficiently since they are hearty, provide more nutritional stability, and take longer to digest.

What You Can Do

Parents should ensure that children have a proper amount of protein and vegetables at each meal. Beef, chicken and fish are the best sources of protein. A simple meal that has protein and vegetables can increase a child’s health and vitality. Vegetables provide an excellent source of complex carbohydrates. Strive to give your child a good serving of broccoli, peas, carrots, or any other colorful vegetable. Vegetables are relatively simple to prepare and are very beneficial. Avoid starchy, processed foods such as cake, pizza, pasta, and bread since these have simple carbohydrates and do not provide necessary nutrients.

  • 40% of calories should be protein
  • 20% fat
  • 30% complex carbohydrates.
  • 10% simple carbohydrates

Every meal should have a simple protein (chicken, beef, or fish) and a full serving of vegetables to provide complex carbohydrates.

Each child, just as each adult, has a different rate of metabolism. If you have any questions about weight loss and healthy diet choices, contact one of our nutritional specialists or weight loss doctors today.

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