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Jason Block
, MD, MPH

More than 40% of all food consumed in the United States is prepared, or ready-to-eatfood. Widespread policy change is underway, including calorie labeling and enhancements to the Nutrition Facts panel, to guide customers to healthier choices when dining in restaurants or buying prepared food. But convincing customers to make changes in fast-paced settings is difficult. Price and taste often quickly overtake health concerns. Why can’t we just change the default options to be healthier?

 
 
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Karen Switkowski,
MPH, PhD


Most parents, nutritionists and educators will agree that it’s not easy to get kids to eat fruits and vegetables, especially in school. In this earlier blog post, Dr. Jenn Woo explained the importance and effects of improved school meal standards, which have since been changed again by the Trump administration. It is well-established that providing nutritious, affordable school meals is important in controlling childhood obesity and there is broad support for this initiative from physicians, and former First Lady Michelle’s Obama’s Let’s Move campaign. However, the best way to implement improved standards is controversial. There’s also the important question, raised in Dr. Woo’s post, of whether kids will actually eat these healthier meals and learn to appreciate fresh, nutritious food.


 
 
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by Jen Thompson, MPH


Full disclosure: all of my colleagues refused to write a blog post on this topic.  “Ewww,” one said.  “I don’t feel comfortable writing about that,” said another.  Even when I pointed out that our department has written papers on very similar topics, they all declined.  So I decided to tackle it myself, because a) it’s a topic that applies to everyone who was ever born, b) is biologically very important and interesting, and c), I think it’s an excellent example of how the implications of a small but interesting scientific study can be misinterpreted, exaggerated, or distorted.

 
 
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Whatever your take on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Syrian refugee crisis, or the bailout of Wall Street, there is probably at least one area where we can (mostly) agree that the Obama Administration has earned high marks over the past 8 years – Obesity. Michelle Obama, with her “Let’s Move” campaign, has been a champion for healthful dietary choices and physical activity, with a strong focus on obesity prevention in children. As great as this has been for those of us who research, treat, or are generally passionate about obesity, the era is now coming to an end. Entering the heart of the 2016 presidential campaign, I often find myself wondering – how will Obama’s successor deal with this important issue? Will the nation’s current laser focus on health and wellness fade into the background as a new family, with new issues to promote, moves into the White House?

 
 
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by Karen Switkowski, MPH, MS

My 1-year-old is an impressive eater. During recent holiday family gatherings, he provided regular entertainment as he sat at the table devouring near-adult-size portions of a variety of foods. Commentary ranged from “Wow, where does it all go?” “But he has such a tiny stomach!” And inevitably, the (well-intentioned, I’m sure) “so… you just let him eat as much as he wants?”

 
 
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In previous studies, we investigated if distance to a supermarket was associated with a child’s BMI or weight status. However, these studies only measured one point in time, and we wanted to know if children participating in an obesity intervention who lived closer to a supermarket would do better than those living farther away. Our findings from this study were recently published in the American Journal of Public Health.

 
 
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Working on Project Viva for the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and completing study visits with dozens of moms and their children. In addition to collecting in-person physical measurements like height, weight and waist circumference, we also administer questionnaires to our participants to capture their behaviors outside of the visit room. One of the most common questions our teen participants ask about their questionnaires -- aside from “What’s margarine?” -- is how to respond to the question “How often do you have gym class?”. Most of our participants attend gym for only a semester of the school year, and even during that semester, may not have gym class every day. Which got me wondering: how physically active (or inactive) are American teenagers, and what is the future of physical education in the United States?

 
 
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by Lauren Fiechtner MD, MPH


In my weight management clinic, I’m always telling parents to remove the TV in their child’s bedroom, both to improve their sleep and decrease their sedentary time. However, this typically is accompanied by complaints about this request from their children. I’m often caught between allying with my patients and doing what’s right for their health. Researchers have found even more reasons for me to insist that they remove their TV from their bedroom – it is associated with higher sugary drink consumption.

 
 
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by Jen Thompson, MPP


For the first few months of their lives, babies can’t do much. In the first video I filmed of my son, when he was three weeks old, he struggles for several minutes just to turn his head from one side to the other. Imagine my skepticism, then, when I learned about “baby-led weaning” or “BLW”. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you start giving your child solid “complimentary” foods, in addition to breast milk or formula, when he reaches 6 months of age. Instead of starting with “baby” food – rice cereal, fruit and vegetable purees – devotees of baby-led weaning call for feeding babies small pieces of “real” food, allowing babies to feed themselves.

 
 
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by Nicole Witham, B.S.


When we hear about childhood obesity, a few main factors get the majority of our attention: quality and quantity of food eaten, levels of physical activity obtained and total screen time consumed, to name a few. While these factors undoubtedly influence the development of childhood obesity, there are other variables that might also play a role. If we are thinking about how the quality and quantity of food a child consumes might lead to obesity, we should also consider how parents affect how a child approaches food. Evidence suggests that there is an association between restrictive feeding practices by parents and both overeating and weight gain in children.