"When families are struggling financially, it's hard to focus on healthy foods. Many families don't have a lot of money to buy or cook food, and families don't always get the right messages from the things that are subsidized," Graf said. For example, she said, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food program provides vouchers for free juice, but drinking sweetened beverages such as juice is a major source of excess calories. She said many families don't realize that too much juice can be bad.
Both Copperman and Graf said the age group studied here is critical, because this is when taste preferences are developing. "Someone who's never had vegetables probably won't like broccoli if they try it for the first time at 7 or 8. When we're young is when taste preferences form, and it's also a time when families have more control. It's the time to establish good dietary habits, and to turn the TV off," Copperman said.
Both experts also said that parents need to be an example of healthy eating behavior for their children.
Get advice on preventing childhood obesity from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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