A Less Than Flattering Fit – America and Obesity

Overweight boy measuring waist with tape measure-1271682More than a third of U.S. adults and more than 17 percent of children are obese. America, as a developed country, is leading the world in this less than flattering statistic.

“There are multiple causes of obesity, but in the end it’s pretty simple – calories in are more than calories out,” said Marcia Wallen, MS, RD, LMNT, with Williamsburg Hy-Vee in Lincoln.

In order to lose one pound, you need to burn or eat 3,500 fewer calories. That’s 500 calories or a sandwich and a glass of milk per day over a week’s time, said Wallen.

Obesity is most prevalent in developed countries with higher income levels. Yet, the average American spends just 10 percent of their income on food, including restaurants and takeout. This remains one of the lowest percentages around the world, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service study.

“Obesity isn’t income related. American’s don’t walk or bike, we drive places. We sit in front of computers, video games and TVs. We look for the nearest parking spot, and we eat more,” said Wallen. “Losing weight is not easy. People need to work on both sides of the equation – eating fewer calories and moving more.”

Grocery stores are larger than ever, stocking different types of food consumers are demanding, the number of farmers markets is at an all time high, restaurants are on every street corner – today American’s have more options of where and how to source their food than ever.

One of the options includes how their food was raised. The organic market has had a massive increase in sales, growing from $3.4 billion in 1997 to $26.7 billion in 2010, but studies show that eating organic doesn’t equate to healthier eating. Organically-grown food is higher in price, but not due to increased nutrition, but it must be produced through approved methods. These practices are often more expensive to implement, causing organic food to be two or three times more expensive.

“There are no studies that show organic is healthier. Some people are willing to spend more for the method food was grown, but the bottom line is – you can eat healthy and it doesn’t need to cost more – the cost of an apple is less than that of a candy bar,” said Wallen.

Other sections of grocery stores that have increased are the frozen or pre-prepared foods areas, due to demands of convenience.

“Convenience foods are wonderful, but also tend to be higher in fat, calories and sodium than homemade options. Our lifestyle has changed so that someone isn’t at home cooking, and changing our lifestyle is where it gets complicated,” said Wallen.

Wallen noted there are a few simple things families can do to combat obesity –

  1. Watch portion sizes – People eat 30 percent less on a smaller plate
  2. Eating slower and taking smaller bites
  3. Eating at home as a family – this saves calories and money

“There are times it’s ok to indulge in foods that aren’t as healthy for us, but that is sometimes,” concluded Wallen. “It’s all about moderation and variety.”

—– Kassi Williams is a proud farmer’s daughter raised up on a cow/calf and grain farm.

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