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Archive for March, 2008

Do Overweight Moms Set Up Their Kids to be Overweight?

Saturday, March 15th, 2008


by Laurie Zuckerman, co-author


As a mother of two, I am well acquainted with the anguish of mother guilt. Am I irrevocably damaging my baby's pyche by letting him cry it out at 2 a.m.? Will my six year old miss out on some great potential as an Olympic hopeful because I couldn't squeeze in gymnastics lessons on top of her dance and martial arts?

But mothers may now be able wipe at least one worry off their lists. A group of British researchers studied the hypothesis that if a woman is overweight during pregnancy, the higher levels of sugar and fatty acids in her blood would affect the developing fetus, predisposing the child to poor appetite control, a slower metabolism and eventual obesity. They reported this week that obesity during pregnancy is not strongly linked to obesity in the offspring.

But mothers aren't totally off the hook. (C'mon we never are.) Children who have obese parents have more than twice the chances of becoming obese as an adult compared with children born to lean parents, according to a New England Journal of Medicine article.

The reason, in part, is genetics. Although the genetic role of obesity is only just beginning to be understood, scientists are uncovering certain genes that are associated with excess weight. In a recent article in Science, researchers identified one gene called FTO that increases a person's risk for obesity. There are likely to be others.

Obviously, however, the story doesn't end with genetics. Numerous studies have shown that children's diet and exercise habits follow those of their parents. No surprise there. Almost any parent can tell you that children learn by example (even "and sometimes especially" when we don't want them to follow in our footsteps). Of course, as we talk about extensively in the book, America's obesity-inducing environment doesn't help.

There is yet one more serious consideration that any woman carrying extra pounds should consider before conceiving. Beyond the question of how that extra weight may impact her offspring's future weight, obesity in pregnancy raises the risk of a host of issues including delayed diagnosis, increased need for cesarean or instrumental delivery, pre-eclampsia, eclamsia, gestational diabetes, and blood-loss. Obesity in pregnancy also increases risks to the unborn child, including neural tube defects, spina bifida, heart defects, and delivery-related neonatal morbidity.

As a mom who worries, I hate to throw out this scary list of risks. The good news is that pre-pregnancy weight loss significantly reduces pregnancy complications. So if you are overweight and thinking about becoming pregnancy, talk to your doctor first.

Laurie's Turn to Dish: Where are the Veggies on the Kid's Menu?

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

by Laurie Zuckerman, co-author, The Fattening of America


When it comes to monitoring my kids' eating habits, I have to admit that I'm slightly less obsessive than Eric. (I'm still fainting that he let Max eat FOUR Krispy Kremes - see blog below). Still, I was pretty psyched when I went to the Valentine's Day party at my daughter's school and saw that Yana was the only kindergartenerthere who opted for a cup of water. The rest of the kids were quite literally drinking the Kool Aid. (Yana did have two cookies and a pile of chips in front of her "you can't win em" all.)

But one place I've found I can rarely win is a restaurant. Have you ever wondered why the junkiest food on the menu "especially in nicer restaurants" is housed under the kid's menu? The choices are typically a plate of fried food, a burger, a hot dog or a pile of pasta. (Macaroni Grill's Kid's Double Mac and Cheese, by the way, has a whopping 1,210 calories.)

I actually have no problem with Yana eating the occasional hot dog or French fry. And I'm a sucker for mac and cheese myself. But it does get under my skin that only very rarely does a kid's meal come with any fruits or vegetables.

Why is that? Is there a perception that America's kids are vegetable phobic? Well, maybe. Think about the tremendous success of books like Deceptively Delicious and The Sneaky Chef.

I don't know if I just have an unusual kid, but Yana never complains when she seessome veggies on her dinner plate. Yes, right there in plain view, not pureed and hidden away in her chicken nuggets. (My baby is still on strained carrots and Cheerios, but I'm hoping, though not necessarily expecting, he will someday follow his big sister's good example.)

Because I do my best to include some fruits or veggies in every meal, I tend to get a little peeved when we eat out and the inevitable plate of fried food is served up veggie free. Of course, I could have ordered for Yana from the regular menu. In fact, sometimes I do, but both the cost and the portion size always strike me as a little out of hand.

So what gives? Are the chefs, in fact, just responding to their customer's demands? (Remember the example in Fattening of what happened when Ruby Tuesday's downsized some of their portions? Customers were furious, and sales dropped.) So would customers complain if some veg appeared on their kid's plates? What if the costs of the kid's menu items went up?


Personally, I would be more than happy to pay a bit more to get some more greens in my kids it's an option I usually choose when it's offered on the side. But am I the typical customer? Or do the chefs (and restaurant corporations) have it right? Do they know their target market? Are Americans really so veggie phobic? You tell me.

The Fattening of America
How the Economy Makes Us Fat, If It Matters, and What to Do About It
by Eric A. Finkelstein & Laurie Zuckerman

Copyright © 2008 Eric A. Finkelstein & Laurie Zuckerman