West Texas Battles Childhood Obesity

by Diane Tuazon
NewsWest 9

WEST TEXAS - To many parents, hearing about the obesity problem that Texas is battling, catches them by surprise.

"It's unfortunate that it has to be organized activity now, kids used to play outside but not anymore. I want parents to take away Nintendo and let them play outside," YMCA Personal Trainer, Sheila McGill said.

McGill is not only a personal trainer, but a mother of two and she's shocked that Texas is one of the top states dealing with childhood obesity.

"Here in Texas, we have a diabetes epidemic and obesity epidemic, they're somewhat related, that they overlap," Dr. Richard Bartlett, with Permian Prompt Care, said.

According to recent studies, nearly 35% of children in Texas are overweight or obese. Doctors warn it can lead to more serious consequences later on in life.

"Obesity sets a person up with long time problems. Children that are obese are at risk of having joint problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease," Dr. Bartlett said.
     
In an effort to help kids eat healthier, schools throughout the Permian Basin have changed their lunch menus to provide healthier choices.       
    
"Texas has the strictest nutrition policy in all of U.S. Every food item we put out there is part of a healthy choice and doesn't exceed more than 23 grams of fat. We provide a variety of fruits, veggies, mac and cheese," ECISD Dietician, Dawn Lin said.

Many of the healthier foods at schools are placed closer to the front of the counter to entice children to make the right choice when it comes to choosing their meals.

"We keep the favorites too, but every item that is put out there is met with calorie restrictions and make sure vitamins are intact. Also starting in April, you'll see more yogurts put out there for them," Lin said.

On top of that, some campuses are getting rid of frying machines all together instead, they're now baking foods.

Getting healthy doesn't stop there, the YMCA provides a number activities for young children in the form of exercise.

"We offer several programs like kids zumba, martial arts, kid pilates, and this youth fitness center where we have equipment designed for kids' bodies," McGill said.

Despite all the resources out there, health officials say the real discipline starts at home.
    
"Parents do play a major role. They're the ones who go to the supermarket and buys the food," Dr. Bartlett said.

"Education at home is really important and exercise. We need to work as a team in order to see a decrease in childhood obesity," Lin said.

Doctors say in general a child should not consume more than 2,000 calories a day, and they advise everyone to eat less carbs and starches, instead add more protein to your diet.