By Garrick Hoffman
There is something painfully alarming about being in a convenient store (or supermarket,
or restaurant) and seeing what the parent is allowing – or even encouraging – their child
to eat: Slim Jims. Doritos. Little Debbies. Oreos. Ice cream. Handfuls of candy. Liters
upon liters of Pepsi. Burgers with double the patties and double the bacon and double the
cheddar. Energy drinks (some give you wings!). And let’s not forget: Happy Meals.
But will all those meals really be “happy” anymore once you’ve learned your kid
has early onset hypertension and type II diabetes, both of which are life-threatening
One might also feel alarmed in reading the title alone of an article recently
published by NPR: “About A Third Of U.S. Kids And Teens Ate Fast Food Today”,
which cites recent studies by the CDC to illustrate this point. This means one in three
adolescents aged 2-19 ate fast-food not only today, but as the article explains, that they
do every day. And perhaps it’s no wonder, since they are incessantly bombarded with
fast-food advertisement, with many advertisements geared specifically towards children.
But despite the influence of marketing, there is still an accountability and responsibility
that parents bear.
Although the term “child victimization” is typically associated with verbal,
physical, or emotional abuse, it can also come in a more subtle, yet equally insidious
form: malnutrition. Malnutrition is defined as “lack of proper nutrition; inadequate or
unbalanced nutrition.” This could stem from a variety of things: insufficient
nutrient/calorie intake, excessive eating, a lack or absence of healthy and nutritional
foods in a child’s diet (fruits and vegetables, for example), or from a diet composed of
poor food options with minimal or no nutritional value (i.e. most processed foods or
sugar foods). Many parents will believe that so long as their child is eating, this is surely
better than their child not eating enough. And this mentality is haunting.
There are a couple reasons why it’s haunting: the parent appears entirely apathetic
to a huge element of their child’s well-being, feeding them foods without examining their
effects; and because poor nutritional choices can and does lead to health conditions that
can permanently affect the life of that child. The American Academy of Family
Physicians (AAFP) reports that, “High blood pressure in childhood commonly leads to
hypertension in adulthood, and adult hypertension is the leading cause of premature death
around the world. Children with hypertension may have evidence of target organ
damage.” Furthermore, primary hypertension, which is strongly correlated to a child
being obese or overweight, and is also much more likely to strike children than adults, is
commonly associated with risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to
It is a parent’s responsibility for ensuring their child not only has a healthy diet,
but is trained to embrace it as well. When a child is trained at a young age to avoid
harmful foods that are destructive on human health, and concurrently embrace food they
understand is good for them, they are much more likely to correctly travel on a path of
healthy eating for life. If one is fortunate, their child will break out of abject food habits
to embrace better ones and – most importantly, if one is very fortunate – their child will
not develop early onset hypertension, heart disease, type II diabetes, and will not become
obese, which alone can cause a myriad of health conflicts.
The list, eerily enough, does not end there.