Despite the state’s “Scale Back” programs, fast food restaurants’ healthier options and video games promoting physical activity, the percentage of obese Americans continues to rise.
Nutritionists and dietitians repeat the same phrases every year: “Avoid empty calories” and “eat in moderation.”
The repeated warnings appear to have fallen on an inattentive audience.
According to the latest report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 35 percent of adults in America are obese. At 32 percent, Alabama ranks fourth.
For the past three decades, the CDC has tracked the obesity epidemic from 15 percent in 1980 to 35 percent in 2010.
According to the Obesity Action Committee, obesity affects more than 93 million Americans.
This is more than an appearance issue — lives are at stake, experts stressed. Possible side effects of obesity include Type II diabetes, hypertension and heart attack.
Children are not exempt from the epidemic.
“Childhood obesity has more than tripled over the past 30 years,” said Yvette Bolen, professor of health and physical activity at Athens State University. “Yes, we can reverse the trend. However, it will take a host of determined, informed individuals to combat this epidemic.”
In the CDC’s latest report, experts predict the obesity rate out to 2030 in order to prepare for the potential economic impact. Health care costs to treat preventable obesity-related diseases could increase by $48 billion to $66 billion by 2030, researchers estimate.
Nutritionists weighed in on what foods to avoid and what foods to buy.
Berries: High in cancer-fighting antioxidants. The more color, the more nutrients.
Natural fiber: Whole grains and vegetables, such as broccoli and artichokes, aid with digestion and colon health, and keep arteries clean of plaque-building cholesterol.
Healthy fats: Omega 3s and unsaturated fats, such as those in salmon, walnuts and olive and canola oils, aid heart health. Omega 3s, an anti-inflammatory, aids with infection and arthritis prevention.
Water: Purified, plain water helps rid the body of toxins. Benefits skin, helps maintain a healthy weight and increases bodily functions.
Lean proteins: Found in fish and poultry, proteins aid in muscle building and tissue repair. Avoid fried dishes.
— Stefanee Moore, clinical nutrition manager for Decatur Morgan hospital
“Families struggle to meet the mere minimum requirements of a healthy, daily diet. These include eating approximately 2 to 3 ounces of whole grain and 2½ to 6½ cups of fruits and vegetables each day,” Bolen said.
A variety of fresh and canned fruits and vegetables.
Low-fat or nonfat dairy products, including milk.
Whole grain products.
— Yvette Bolen
Nonfat Greek yogurt: High in protein. Add fresh fruit or honey to taste.
Extra virgin olive oil: Full of healthy fats. Best used in dressings and over cooked vegetables.
Chicken: A great source of lean protein and can be added to various styles of dishes.
Frozen vegetables: Choose vegetables with no added flavors. These last longer than fresh vegetables and can be added to meals all year.
Whole wheat breads and pastas: Full of heart-healthy fiber. Great staples to round out a meal.
— Stefanee Moore
High fructose corn syrup: Fructose causes a spike in blood glucose, which can lead to Type II diabetes.
Salt: Found in processed foods, gravies and sauces and table salt. Excess salt causes fluid build-up and leads to higher blood pressure. Instead of salt, flavor foods with herbs and spices.
Processed foods: Avoid ingredients you can’t pronounce.
Unhealthy fats: Saturated and trans fats, which can be found in animal fats and shelf stable items. Trans fats raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol.
Soda: Offers little to no nutritional value. For a small caffeine boost, try a plain cup of antioxidant-rich coffee or green tea.
— Stefanee Moore
“Few, if any, foods must be totally avoided, but moderation is key,” Bolen said.
Instead of eliminating certain foods, replace them with healthier options. Examples of foods to replace are dairy desserts, meat-laden pizzas, fruit drinks and sodas, Bolen said.
When eating out, choose vegetables and fruit instead of chips or fries.
Colorful salad, but remember, go light on the dressing.
Grilled chicken sandwich. Replace the mayonnaise with mustard for a healthier and lower calorie meal.
Whole wheat wraps filled with vegetables and lean protein, like tuna or chicken.
— Stefanee Moore
“Children, as adults, will only eat what tastes good to them. Select the fruits and vegetables you like to eat and combine them with other nutritional choices,” Bolen said.
Pair favorite fruits and vegetables with nutritional options, such as nuts, low-fat and low-sodium lunch meats, like white turkey or chicken breast and healthy leftovers.
Along with eating healthier, individuals need to become more active, Bolen said.
“By expending fewer calories than we consume, we become a society of overweight or obese people,” she said.
To increase the amount of exercise:
Have physical education teachers teach lifetime activities, such as tennis, golf, badminton and dance.
Find activities to do as a family.
Use your own body weight to perform exercises, such as push-ups.
“Small one- to two-pound weights are inexpensive. However, if you improve your nutrition habits, you will likely have cans of fruits and vegetables in your pantry of this weight,” Bolen said.
Obese and overweight adults: 66.8 percent — 4th
Overweight and obese age 10-17: 36.1 percent — 6th
Type II Diabetes: 11.8 percent — 4th
Physical inactivity: 32.6 percent — 5th
Hypertension: 40 percent — 1st
|High School Sports||@DecaturPreps|