Childhood Obesity Causes: Lunch and Its Nutrition Impact
August 23, 2021

childhood obesity lunch choices

Childhood obesity causes are rampant in American society, and unless our kids start eating better, we will only continue to raise kids at an increased risk of many otherwise avoidable chronic illnesses.  This starts at mealtime.  For many kids, this is particularly true at lunchtime, the meal they either bring with them to school or that they buy or are served while they’re there.

How is Lunch Among Childhood Obesity Causes?

According to a recent study published in JAMA, two thirds of the food kids currently eat in the US is ultra processed, and the situation is worsening with each passing year.  At the same time, kids are eating a decreasing amount of unprocessed or minimally processed foods in an average day.  As the regular consumption of highly processed foods is among the top childhood obesity causes, these eating habit trends help to show the difference kids meals are making in worsening it.

Some of the most commonly consumed lunchtime foods for kids are among the worst foods on a nutritional scale. Among childhood obesity causes, the regularity of these types of meals is a major problem.  These are foods that aren’t just meant to be eaten by children on rare occasion. They’re foods that people at any age should be saving as treats, not including in a typical mealtime.

Childhood Obesity Causes in Common Lunch Foods

In the hopes of being a “fun parent”, many of us add little treats to every lunchbox or simply accept whatever meal is being served at the school cafeteria.  Whether that means adding cookies or fruit gummies to every lunchbox, or accepting that kids are served pizza, spaghetti, and other highly processed, starchy foods, potentially without a full serving of fruits or veggies, it can mean serious issues to a kid’s nutrition for one third of their meals.

If just one more meal involves processed foods – such as a toaster pastry or waffle in the morning, or take-out pizza or Chinese food for dinner – that’s already two thirds of daily meals containing highly processed foods, without counting snacks. Potato chips, cookies, crackers, candies, and other processed foods rapidly work themselves into a kid’s day, becoming childhood obesity causes that were hard to spot at first, but quite obvious when they’re added together in this way.

Calorie Control for Kids

As was discussed in the first part of this series about snacks contributing to obesity in children, calories are just as important to kids as they are to children.  After all, it’s not just the processed foods that are the childhood obesity causes, but also the overabundance of calories they contain, among other nutritional factors.

While it’s not typically recommended that kids be calorie counters, it doesn’t hurt for parents to have an awareness of approximately how many their children are consuming on a typical day. This can help to better guide purchases at the grocery store and meals, such as lunchtime, to overcome this trend toward overeating.

Calories Versus Physical Activity

To help illustrate the point, we’ve calculated the amount of time a typical 80 pound child would need in various physical activities to burn off the calories in common lunchbox foods.

  • 1 Capri Sun, 30 Calories= 20 minutes basketball practice
  • 1 mini bottle (10 oz) Minute Maid Apple Juice, 140 Calories= 38 minutes soccer practice
  • 1 snack-sized bag Lay’s potato chips, 160 Calories= 1 hour, 6 minutes baseball practice
  • 1 serving goldfish crackers, 140 Calories= 1 hour, 17 minutes volleyball practice
  • 1 serving pretzels, 110 Calories= 1 hour gymnastics practice
  • 1 snack-sized box raisins, 90 Calories= 39 minutes ballet practice
  • 1 prepackaged “dipping cup” peanut butter (Skippy, Jif), 250 Calories=2 hours bike riding
  • 1 prepackaged “to-go” cup Hidden Valley Ranch, 210 Calories=1 hour tennis practice

Of course, this doesn’t mean that a single instance of any of these foods is among the childhood obesity causes you should worry about. This is also not to say that you should necessarily require your child to stop eating all these foods forever. However, with this understanding, it can become clearer as to why it is a good idea to take a look at the bigger picture before allowing highly processed foods to be a part of regular meals and snacks.

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