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Obesity, a worldwide epidemic can begin at any age, any point in anyone’s life, but it is when we are children that we tend to learn our ways and form habits.

A recent study attempts to figure out how to successfully implement positive eating habits in children, ensuring their diets are rich in nutrients. Simply targeting certain nutrients to reduce or eliminate from a child’s diet is not only challenging but has proven to be less effective than a more holistic approach. There is little evidence to show that reducing a single nutrient – like saturated fat or added sugar – in a child’s diet can help them maintain a healthy weight or grow properly. Just because food contains sugar, fat, or sodium does not necessarily mean that it is unhealthy for children to consume.

While taking that approach would eliminate junk food, it may eliminate foods that are extremely nutrient rich as well. Instead of completely eliminating these flavorings from the diet, they can be used to make healthier foods more palatable to children thereby increasing their consumption of healthier foods.

The national school-lunch program has recently implemented more fresh fruit, whole grains, and lean protein in their meals, which pediatric nutrition experts have applauded as a great move and beneficial for the children. This is a great example of the program taking effective steps to improve the overall diets of children.

However, several school districts have also eliminated chocolate and other flavored milks from the cafeterias, which will likely reduce the amount of milk that many children drink. This is a clear example of school-lunch programs taking it a little too far with their restrictions. Milk is extremely beneficial for children’s diet and is correlated with a better overall diet quality and there is no association between flavored milk and weight gain.

In addition, the federal government plans to drastically cut sodium in school lunches, potentially making lunch options even less appealing. Implementing these types of changes will likely prove to be a less effective way of improving children’s health.

As obesity continues to become a more prevalent issue in the United States, it is important to keep an open dialogue on the issue of nutrition and continue to keep looking for ways to improve the diets of children and ourselves. While excess consumption of things such as sugar, salt and fat is not recommended, the complete elimination of these flavorings from our diet is possibly not the answer.  Instead, by taking a more holistic approach you can improve your overall diet more effectively. There must be some balance of providing a plethora of foods and instilling nutritional education to help teach children to make healthy decisions throughout their life.  As they get older, they will be introduced to all sorts of foods and will have to learn how to utilize willpower and make healthy choices themselves.

Read more about the study here.