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What To Eat

6 Keys to Fighting Early Childhood Obesity

Leading the list: More breastfeeding, more exercise and less time in front of screens and, of course, healthy real foods in appropriate portions.


woman breastfeeding a baby

The Institute of Medicine released a report Thursday on how to prevent obesity in children from birth to age 5: Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies.

The report is remarkable for its focus on policies for parents and child care providers, and its almost complete lack of attention to policies for improving the food environment in which parents and caregivers operate.

The report's key recommendations for children from birth to age 5:

  • Promote breastfeeding
  • Monitor growth
  • Increase physical activity
  • Provide healthy foods in age-appropriate portions
  • Ensure access to affordable healthy foods; educate caregivers and parents
  • Limit screen time (all media) to less than 2 hours a day

That's all? Nothing about keeping sodas and junk foods out of the house? Only this about food marketing to kids?

The Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration should continue their work to establish and monitor the implementation of uniform voluntary national nutrition and marketing standards for food and beverage products marketed to children.

As the IOM well knows from its 2005 report on Food Marketing to Children and Youth, parents and caregivers cannot do this on their own. They need help, and that means policies to improve the food environment. The report does say a little about farmers' markets and green carts as a means to improve access, but that's it.

It's time for a follow-up to the 2005 report. This doesn't do it, alas.

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Marion Nestle

Marion Nestle

Noted author Marion Nestle is a Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of What to Eat.
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What To Eat: Expert advice on food, health and nutrition issues that are in the news.
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