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By M. N. Jimerson

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Not only are children not eating enough healthy foods, but they are also consuming energy-dense, unhealthy foods. Energy density is the amount of energy contained in a specific amount of food. It is measured in kilocalories per gram or kilocalories per milliliter, which is the energy released when the food is eaten and absorbed. Fats contain the highest energy densities, about 9 kilocalories per gram. Carbohydrates (sugars) and proteins are around 4 kilocalories per gram. Instead of the fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meat, milk, and water recommended by Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005, children are living on highly processed, high-fat, high-sodium fast foods and sugar-laden candy, baked goods, and soft drinks.

Some parents may therefore be reluctant to bring up the issue of overweight. Others may hope their child will grow into their weight without outside intervention. Some do not even realize their child is overweight, interpreting the extra pounds as a sign that their child is receiving adequate nutrition. Still others assume their child is healthy if they do not currently have serious medical problems with highly visible symptoms. ”23 58 Childhood Obesity A mother prepares a healthy meal with her daughter’s help.

A calorie is a unit of heat that measures the amount of energy a particular food gives the consumer. The energy gap—the difference between energy needed and energy actually consumed—lies at the heart of the current childhood obesity epidemic. Four major factors influence the energy intake/expenditure equation: diet, physical activity, environment, and genes. These factors generally occur in combination; for example, poor nutrition coinciding with lack of exercise. S. ”13 The environment in which children live, in turn, affects what they eat and how often they exercise.

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