Overweight and Undernourished: Childhood Obesity

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Mozzarella Cheese Sticks

Over Weight and Undernourished: The Childhood Obesity Epidemic

Here's a simple fact: Our children are overweight but undernourished! Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years. Currently, one third of children are overweight or obese, putting them at risk for type II diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and even stroke -- conditions usually associated with adulthood. As recent headlines stated, Missouri ranks 11th as the fattest state in the country, Illinois ranks as the 23rd fattest. These facts are astounding, and that is why September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month -- a time to spotlight this epidemic and take action to make our kids healthier.

The good news is that small changes in eating habits can make a big difference. By following recommendations from the MyPlate icon, kids can eat a more healthful diet. MyPlate recommends choosing choose low-fat and fat-free dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. By choosing these healthy foods, kids will get nutrients that are critical to lifelong health without the empty calories.

Parents can help too. Encourage and model healthy eating for your kids. Make daily breakfast a priority. Encourage or plan for a nutritious school lunch. And when kids come home from school, prepare healthy snacks. Whether at school or at home, don't forget the dairy in your child's diet! Dairy products are a substantial contributor of many nutrients important for child health, including calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein.

Try this delicious family meal, full of nutrition, for your growing child.

Cheeseburger Macaroni Casserole

1 pound ground beef
cup chopped onion
1 cup uncooked whole wheat elbow macaroni
1 medium tomato, chopped
1(8-ounce) can tomato sauce
teaspoon seasoned salt, optional
teaspoon pepper
1cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook ground beef and onion until beef is browned and onion is soft; drain. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Spoon the macaroni into the prepared pan. Spread the beef mixture and chopped tomato over macaroni. Pour tomato sauce over beef and sprinkle with seasoned salt, if desired, and pepper. Sprinkle with cheese and cover loosely with foil; bake 35 minutes or until cheese is melted and edges of casserole are bubbling. Makes four servings.

Nutrition Facts: 340 calories, 10g fat, 36g protein, 30% daily value for calcium

For a tasty quick-fix snack, prepare Baked Mozzarella sticks, a good source of calcium and protein.

Baked Mozzarella Sticks

cooking spray

1 (12-ounce) package reduced-fat Mozzarella string cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
8 tablespoons panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
cup prepared marinara sauce, warmed

Position rack in upper third of oven and preheat it to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Remove cheese from packaging and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk egg until foamy. In a small non-stick skillet, mix Italian seasoning with bread crumbs and place over medium-heat. Cook and stir bread crumbs until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Dip one piece of string cheese in egg until coated and then into toasted bread crumbs, coating completely. Redip the string cheese in egg and again in bread crumbs, if desired. Place on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining string cheese and place on baking sheet 1 1/2 inches apart. Spray string cheese lightly with cooking spray. Bake 5 to 6 minutes or until heated through.

Note: Cheese may melt slightly and loose shape. Simply press it back into place. Serve with warmed marinara sauce for dipping.

Nutrition Facts: 180 calories, 7g fat, 14g protein, 30% daily value for calcium

For more information on the health benefits of dairy, visit www.stldairycouncil.org or contact Kelly Maher with St. Louis District Dairy Council: call (314)-835-9668, or e-mail kmaher@stldairycouncil.org.

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