Parents of overweight Latino children are willing to make tortillas with vegetable oil instead of lard and to make other healthy food and lifestyle choices to get their kids fit, a researcher at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas has found.
The focus group findings, which appear online in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, provide important starting points for fighting the epidemic of childhood obesity in Latinos, the largest and fastest-growing ethnic group in Texas and nationally.
“Almost half of all Latino kids are either overweight or obese,” said Dr. Glenn Flores, senior author of the study, in a news release. “It’s an important issue in terms of our future generations. If we intervene early enough, we won’t have obese adults.”
Researchers asked parents about their children’s eating and exercise habits and roadblocks to making healthier choices. The 19 parents and their kids then sampled Latino foods prepared with healthy alternatives.
“Themes regarding the most important things parents can do to help overweight children lose weight included encouragement, not making the child feel left out, the whole family eating healthy, and the parent setting a good example,” said Dr. Flores.
The groups responded favorably to most of the healthy ingredient substitutions with the exception of brown rice, which didn’t go over as well as white rice. Beans prepared without lard, healthy-grain enchiladas with low-fat cheese, baked fish and skinless chicken breasts all got high marks from the families.
In addition to encouraging their children to eat healthier, other actions the parents indicated would help their children lose weight included limiting portion sizes and second helpings, drinking more water, increasing physical activity, limiting time in front of the television or computer, and participating in exercise as a family activity. Barriers to improving physical fitness included cost, time constraints and neighborhood safety.
“Sometimes getting kids into organized sports in the inner city is very difficult,” Dr. Flores said. “The kids usually want it, but it’s not always easy to find.”