Over the past 50 years, there has been a significant increase in the rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, especially among children. Dr. David Ludwig, founder of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children's Hospital Boston, talks to Dr. Oz about what's causing these increases and what families can do to stay healthy.
Dr. Ludwig says that for thousands of years humans have been eating foods that digest slowly, which sustains a sense of fullness and promotes a good metabolism. In recent years, he says that due to an emphasis on low-fat diets, the amount of carbohydrates we eat has gone up, raising the glycemic index of our diets. The carbs cause a quick surge in our blood sugar, but it soon crashes down lower than where it started—leaving us irritable, distracted and usually hungry, Dr. Ludwig says.
A diet based on natural, whole and less-processed foods supports weight management and reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, Dr. Ludwig says. Even young children understand the difference between healthy foods found in nature and "fake foods" that come from factories. He says it's up to parents to provide the nutritional choices that are best for their children. "The knowledge we hold in our brain needs to be transformed into gut knowledge," Dr. Ludwig explains.
Healthy eating habits start at home—it doesn't take too much effort on the part of the parents to create a healthy family. Dr. Ludwig offers the following advice:
Protect the home environment—stock your pantry with nutritious and delicious food that supports everybody's health.
Set clear guidelines and limits for food, especially when children are young. Kids are very susceptible to food advertising, so it's important to teach them early on how to eat healthy.
Be a good role model. Your kids are programmed to learn from you, so lead by example. Your health will benefit as well.
Eat meals as a family. You'll not only fill your kids' stomachs, but you'll also nourish their spirits with good conversation around the dinner table.
Eat breakfast. If you don't fuel your metabolism in the morning, you'll be tired and starving by midday. Even a piece of fruit is better than nothing at all.
It's not necessary to give up treats and sweets entirely—go out for ice cream and make it a celebration!