Digesting education on nutrition

I, for one, love a good cupcake. But as a pediatrician observing the impact of childhood obesity, I wholeheartedly disagree that we should be promoting their distribution in Texas classrooms.

Newly elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller garnered national attention recently when he emancipated cupcakes in our public schools and said sodas and fried food should be welcomed back next. As the “cupcake debate” ensued, I wondered what the father of modern medicine might think as we tempt our youngest citizens to unknowingly accept treats that may not be in their best interest.

When Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine” some 2,500 years ago, people weren’t bombarded by conflicting messages about food. And considering 70 percent of chronic diseases related to obesity are preventable and directly attributed to diet and lifestyle, this adage has never been more relevant. Study after study has shown diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease are directly linked to obesity.

Given this evidence, why is it so hard to follow Hippocrates’ advice and let food be our preventative medicine? For starters, what constitutes a healthy diet is not always clear. Confusing and conflicting information from the weight-loss industry, scientific journals and even the medical community leave many adults unable to make informed decisions about food. So how can we expect our children to navigate sugar-sweetened beverages, fried foods and cupcakes readily available at school without parental guidance?

As the newly appointed medical director of the Culinary Health Education for Families (CHEF) program at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, I applaud the many efforts of our city government, schools and community organizations that have prioritized the issue of childhood obesity with programs promoting physical activity. Yet, San Antonio remains one of the most weight-challenged cities in the nation, with more than one out of every three children overweight or obese. We must embrace the concepts of nutritional literacy with the same fervor as physical fitness.

MySanAntonio.com – by Julie La Barba, For the Express-News