Michelle Obama's Plan to Reduce Childhood Obesity

She's involving everyone from new moms to restaurants that offer a children's menu

First lady Michelle Obama released her childhood obesity action plan on Tuesday. Her goal: To bring obesity rates down to 5 percent by 2030. According to Mrs. Obama, one in three U.S. children are now overweight or obese, putting them at greater risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Her report, entitled Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation, comes out of the Task Force on Childhood Obesity created by President Obama in February 2010.

The first lady’s recommendations focus on four key areas, which are the pillars of her Let's Move anti-obesity campaign. One, empower parents and caregivers; two, provide healthy food in schools; three, improve access to healthy, affordable food; and four, increase physical activity.

The full list details 70 recommendations for action, not just at the federal government level, but from local leaders, private businesses and parents as well. According to the report, most of these measures can be implemented “right away.” Among the recommendations:

  • The war on childhood obesity begins with pregnant moms. Women who are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant should be informed about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight during conception and throughout pregnancy.
  • New moms should be encouraged to breastfeed, and be given access to educational classes and breastfeeding support programs.
  • The Federal government should provide clear, actionable guidance to states, providers, and families on how to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and reduce TV and digital media screen time in early childcare settings.
  • Restaurants should consider portion sizes, improve children’s menus, and offer healthier options whenever possible. Restaurants and vending machine operators should also be encouraged to display calorie counts immediately.
  • Food retailers should avoid marketing unhealthy products to children. Entertainment companies should only license their popular characters to food and beverage products that are healthy and nutritious.
  • Pediatricians should routinely calculate children’s BMI and provide information to parents about how to help their children achieve a healthy weight.
  • Schools should promote recess for younger students and physical activity breaks for upper level grades.

In addition to lowering childhood obesity rates within a single generation, Mrs. Obama also advocates establishing new targets for reducing added sugar in processed food, and increasing kids’ fruit and vegetable consumption. Today, the average American child eats just 46 percent of the recommended daily amount of veggies and 64 percent of the recommended amount of fruit. By getting kids to eat better and exercise more, says Mrs. Obama, we will know that we are moving towards success.

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