June 17th is National Eat Your Vegetables Day. We know that getting kids to eat healthy foods such as vegetables can be a challenge for parents. But promoting healthy nutrition and a healthy lifestyle for children and adolescents is important to prevent childhood obesity and establish healthy habits that last into adulthood. To learn more about challenges to healthy eating for youth in Chicago, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) teamed up on the 2017-18 Healthy Chicago Survey, J. In this report, we share results about challenges Chicago parents face in getting their children to eat a healthy foods.
In Chicago, children have higher obesity and overweight rates than the national rates. Furthermore, across the United States, childhood obesity rates have increased from 14% in 1999-2000 to 19% in 2015-2016. Given these findings, it is understandable that childhood obesity was ranked as the second biggest health problem facing Chicago youth by adults in the city.
In Chicago, WIC provides nutrition education and one-on-one counseling to families with children under 5 years old, as well as vouchers for whole grains, dairy, protein, fruit, and vegetables. Research suggests that participating in WIC has a positive impact on children’s nutrition. SNAP also provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of eligible families.
Among parents in our survey, 68% reported at least one challenge to healthy eating for their children. The top three challenges to healthy eating reported by parents were the time it takes for family meals (36%), the cost of healthy foods (33%), and the time it takes to prepare healthy foods (26%).
It can be hard for families who are balancing school, activities, parents’ and other caregivers’ schedules, and other obligations to find the time to sit down to eat a meal together. However, family meals have been shown to have positive associations not only for children’s diet and weight, but also for their mental health.
Younger parents (18-29 years old) were more likely to say that the cost of healthy food was a challenge to healthy eating for their children (42%) than parents who were 30-44 years old (33%) or 45+ years old (24%).