News flash: Kids in the U.S.A. don't eat right.
Researchers... found that nearly 40 percent of calories consumed by children ages 2 to 18 were empty calories, the unhealthiest kind of calories.
Half of these calories came from just six foods:
• Sugary fruit drinks
• Grain desserts, such as cake, cookies and donuts
• Dairy desserts such as ice cream
• Whole milk, which is far fattier than skim.
Depressing, yes, but "staggering," as per a Yale professor? Childhood obesity and diabetes aren't epidemic because of all the apples and whole grains American kids are eating.
Predictably, the experts go on to say that "the picture is complex"—that advertising, lack of both parental and kid food-education, sub par food labeling, "teen culture" (hoodlums with cell phones! BEWARE!), and manufacturers making crappy food so darn tasty are all part of the problem. Duh.
A prof out in Indiana says what Dan Savage has been saying over and over:
"Eating is learned behavior. Kids eat what their parents eat," said Dr. Charles Clark, professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine. If busy parents throw a frozen pizza in the microwave, he said, that's a bad meal that sends a bad message.
How do we get parents to start modeling good eating habits for their children? Put it on the teevee, with PSAs done by a really good ad agency—PSAs that don't show a food pyramid then immediately induce sleep. People need to see the direct connection between eating junk and being overweight, and they need to see it over and over.
Also: Tax candy and pop and "fruit" drinks and fast food—tax the hell out of them.
And: Start a viral Internet campaign where people—regular people, the celebrities of the hiphop, Michelle Obama, Dan Savage—show how easy it is to shop and cook (the Food Gets Better Project?).
But then the American food industry—praised for "providing thousands of healthier product choices that make it easier for shoppers to build a healthy diet for them and their families," in the words of one of its own goddamn associations, in this ABC coverage of the 40% junk-food crisis—wouldn't like this, would it.
And the food industry is hugely powerful. And it's hugely invested in selling us and our kids the maximum amount of processed food and high-fructose corn syrup—hugely invested in keeping our kids fat.