Two Hamburgers, an Order of Fries and Metabolic Syndrome to Go!
By Marcia Zimmerman, CN, September 2008 Zimmerman File, www.nowfoods.com/?action=itemdetail&item_id=45311#1
Fast Food Haven
As teens go back to school, eating fast, cheap, and unhealthy food becomes a way of life. Kids stream out of a nearby high school at lunchtime, heading for their favorite hangouts. Across the street is a hamburger shop, and a block away are a pizzeria, fish & chips, Subway, Quiznos, Jamba juice, and two Starbucks eateries. A Safeway supermarket in the same area offers deli lunch items loaded with salt, preservatives and fat. Nothing “green” to eat is visible, although Subway does offer healthier choices, if you ask for them.
The 2002 U.S. Census Bureau classifies “fast food” restaurants as those that offer “limited service.” Customers order at the counter or drive-by window and may or may not eat on the premises. Cafeterias, juice bars and coffee shops are excluded.1
The idea that kids with their faster metabolism and growing bodies are immune to developing adult diseases is a myth. Kids eating a typical “Western” diet – one rich in meat, refined grains, and fried foods – increase their risk of developing the metabolic syndrome. Dairy consumption, on the other hand, appears to offer some protection against metabolic syndrome.2 Might adding a milkshake instead of a coke help offset the damage from eating too many hamburgers? Not likely! But kids can make healthier choices while eating with their friends, and moderation is also an important key to surviving fast food.
The Metabolic Syndrome
The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors defined by elevated measurements of waist circumference, blood pressure, fasting glucose levels, triglycerides, and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. The abnormalities are not diseases per se but are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.3
The role of diet in the development of the syndrome is still evolving. However data on 4,450 teens gathered from a combined National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999-2002) revealed that a diet characterized by red and processed meat, fried food, and refined grains, as well low intakes of fruit and vegetables, fish, and whole grains, increased the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.4 Overweight teens had sixteen times the rate of metabolic syndrome.  A book I co-authored with Jayson Kroner, “7-Syndrome Healing: Supplement Essentials  for Mind and Body, will give you important information on metabolic syndrome and what you can do to prevent it.
Green Your Teen!
Getting a teenager to change eating habits is a monumental task, but you can make a difference. There are simple steps you can take to encourage healthier food choices. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has just published a report on Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity.5 The report suggests that parents answer these questions.
1.       Are the foods and beverages that are available and prepared in the home healthful and served in reasonable portions?
2.       Is physical activity emphasized and a family priority?
3.       Do you have established rules or guidelines limiting leisure screen time?
The report concludes that schools are the current focus of many obesity prevention efforts, particularly changes in the food and beverage environment. Some high schools have kitchens where teens can “experiment” with food preparation such as a “green” pizza with less pepperoni and more veggies. Garden plots tended by students who regularly harvest green things such as Swiss chard, kale, spinach and dark lettuce are becoming popular. Teens are also taught tips for healthier eating:
1.       Use vegetable oils such as olive oil, macadamia nut oil, or coconut oil.
2.       Mix wheat flour or almond flour with regular white unbleached flour.
3.       Use natural sweeteners such as agave, brown rice syrup, or maple syrup in place of sugar. Stevia is an excellent sweetener for beverages.
4.       Sauté, bake or grill foods instead of frying.
5.       Add vegetables to any meal and eat fruit whole instead of drinking juice.
While this is encouraging, the home environment is where the changes need to begin. The earlier these changes begin, the better. Make sure your pantry is stocked with healthy snack items and that you have fresh fruits and vegetables available for snacking. The teens in my family love NOWs cashew, pumpkin and almond crunch.
You can learn more about healthy eating with my book 7-Color Cuisine: A Cookbook and Nutrition Guide (available at booksellers and on line). NOW University is offering a new video and audio course based on my book. You can see me demonstrate a healthy pantry, shopping, preparing meals, and dining with friends. Register at www.now-university.com today!
Don’t Overlook the Importance of Breakfast!
Modus operandi for most teens is sleep late then rush out the door. Yet this practice is associated with weight gain. A study of 2216 teens over a 5-year period showed that those who ate a regular breakfast were less likely to gain weight.6 You will find quick and nourishing breakfast ideas in 7-Color Cuisine.
2  Lutsey, P.L. et al; “Dietary Intake and the Development of the Metabolic Syndrome: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study” Circulation 2008;117:754-61
3  Mayo Clinic webste http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/metabolic%20syndrome/DS00522
4  Pan, Y.; Pratt, C.A.; “Metabolic Syndrome and its Association with Diet and Physical Activity in US Adolescents” J Am Diet Assoc 2008;108:276-86
5  Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity: How Do We Measure Up? (Free Executive Summary), http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11722.html
6  Timlin, M.T.; et al; “Breakfast Eating and Weight Change in a 5-year Prospective Analysis of Adolescents: Project EAT (Eating Among Teens)” Pediatrics 2008;121:e638-45