Kimberly Reed, Executive Director, International Food Information Council Foundation 02/09/11
Today we celebrate the one-year anniversary of "Let's Move!", First Lady Michelle Obama's initiative dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation.
The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation has been a supporter of this effort over the past year, and childhood obesity has been a key focus since the IFIC Foundation's founding in 1991. After 20 years of work, we now have extensive consumer research, an established network of more than 350 nutrition and food safety experts, helpful web sites www.foodinsight.org and www.kidnetic.com, and consumer-friendly information for effective strategies to improve the health and well-being of children, their families, and communities.
In the past year, we also launched a "Healthy Kids and Families" section on the Foundation's website, which includes a host of resources for parents, health professionals, educators, and kids about food, fitness, fun, feelings, and families.
As such, we will continue to highlight the importance of calorie and energy balance. Our 2010 Food and Health Survey highlighted an important fact: Americans continue to show a lack of understanding of “calories in” and “calories out” (also known as “energy balance”) and their relationship to weight.
When it comes to calories consumed versus calories burned, the Survey illustrates that most Americans (58 percent) do not make an effort to balance the two. And, a large majority of people (77 percent) are not meeting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines.
This is an important finding for everyone who is committed to reducing obesity in our nation should appreciate and we look forward to continue focusing on this effort.
Our recent work as a member of the Dietary Guidelines Alliance -- a public-private partnership among leading health associations, food and health science societies, and industry associations in liaison with the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services -- included comprehensive consumer research with parents to test messages related to energy balance, including calories and physical activity, how to make nutrient rich choices, and how to manage higher calorie choices as part of an overall healthful diet.
The Dietary Guidelines Alliance research identified top messages that parents said would change their behavior:
• Know your number. Learning how many calories you should consume in a day is a critical first step in managing your weight.
• Fun stuff counts as exercise! Get active with the family whether it’s soccer in the backyard, dancing to music or taking a walk in your neighborhood.
• Take charge of your weight. Balancing the calories you eat and drink with the calories you burn though physical activity puts you in control.
• Small steps = big changes. Serve smaller portions to help curb calories and keep your weight on the right track.
• Base your plate on nutrient-rich foods that offer beneficial nutrients and fewer calories. Choose fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, beans and nuts, and low-fat and fat-free dairy foods more often.
• You are an important role model for your children. Show your family how to savor their favorite higher-calorie foods and beverages by enjoying smaller portions together.
Along with our current activities and outreach, the Foundation will continue to support the First Lady's "Let's Move!" national public awareness campaign in the future. Like (and to quote) the First Lady, the International Food Information Council Foundation is focused on working with our stakeholders -- including health and nutrition professionals, educators, government officials, journalists, and consumers -- "across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food nutrition and physical activity."
So far we've reached out to and met with representatives of from a variety of federal agencies that are on the President's Task Force on Childhood Obesity to offer the Foundation's resources and we've also submitted comments focused on our research.
In addition to "Let's Move!", U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin's focuses on "Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future" and has a pledge that parents and caregivers can sign. Before being named U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Benjamin was involved with the IFIC Foundation as one of our independent experts and supported our mission of "effectively communicating science based information on health, nutrition, and food safety for the public good."
Looking ahead, we will be meeting with Robin Schepper, Executive Director of the Let's Move! Initiative later this month to discuss further collaboration, including how to communicate calories and energy balance as one way help manage American's weight.
Happy 1st birthday to "Let's Move!" and congratulations on all you have accomplished. Now, "Let's Focus!" on helpful ways to communicate important messages on energy and calorie balance.