Plan healthy back-to-school snacks

by Lt. Col. Danny Jaghab
U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion
and Preventive Medicine

Now that school has started, it’s time to plan for and provide healthy snacks for children, so that harried parents don’t feel tempted to run to the fast-food drive-through for quick, high-calorie, low-nutrient snacks. Before giving into cries for fast foods, consider the facts:

  • For the first time in history, this generation of children may live a shorter life span than their parents because of complications associated with overweight and obesity. The number of overweight children and adolescents ages 6 to 10 has tripled in the past 40 years.
  • More than 10 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 5 are overweight, up from 7 percent in 1994.
  • Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
  • Rising levels of overweight and obesity are already taking their toll on our children’s health. Type II diabetes, or what used to be called “adult-onset diabetes,” is on the rise in children.
  • Being overweight as a child predisposes children to other diseases earlier in life − diseases like hypertension and heart disease. It may be associated with the rise in childhood asthma. Also, the emotional pain and scarring caused by being overweight as a child cannot be underestimated.
  • The Food and Drug Administration defines a healthy food as one that is low in fat. It must have less than three grams of fat per serving and less than one gram of saturated fat per serving. It must have a limited amount of cholesterol, not more than 60 milligrams per serving, and low sodium, not more than 360 milligrams per serving for individual foods and 480 milligrams per serving for meal-type products.
  • Additionally, an individual food item must provide at least 10 percent of one or more of vitamins A or C, iron, calcium, protein or fiber.