THE BLOG
07/22/2014 12:19 pm ET Updated Sep 21, 2014

Introducing Fruit and Yogurts at School, and Playing More Outdoors

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According to the World Health organization, worldwide obesity has nearly doubled since 1980. In 2008, more than 1.4 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight. Of these over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese. Thirty five percent of adults aged 20 and over were overweight in 2008 and 11 percent were obese. Among children, more than 40 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2012.

Both obesity and overweight can lead to chronic health diseases, like cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke as the leading cause of death in 2012), diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and some cancers.

Geographically speaking, both overweight and obesity higher percentage incidence is to be found in North and Latin America ( the United States of America, Canada and Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, Panama, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago), Europe ( UK and Ireland), Africa (Libya , Egypt and South Africa), Middle East (Lebanon, Turkey, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates) and Australia with peaks in Micronesia and the island of Nauru ( source WHO).

In term of overweight children, around 30 million are living in developing countries and 10 million in developed countries.

Why are we eating and making our children eat so much without allowing them to go out and play outdoors? Most parents I know today give electronics for 2-3 years old kids as presents, "caging" them at home playing digital lonely games. This behavior increases the percent of sedentary, lonely and sad kids.

Responses at international level include the WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical activity and Health, which gives scientific review on the current state of noncommunicable diseases ( NCD's) and the actions that all sectors of society ( private, NGO's, civil society and governments) are encouraged to take with the aim of increasing the overall awareness and understanding of the influences of diet and physical activity on health and of the positive impact of preventive interventions.

The Let's Move campaign launched by Michelle Obama is one example of how national policies can boost good practices. By giving parents helpful information and fostering environments that support healthy choices and eating habits, by providing healthier foods in schools and ensuring every family has access to healthy and affordable food, children are "taught by example" and will be, when growing older and wiser, able to make their own choices of eating healthy, regularly and taking care of their bodies and their emotions.

Like my mum taught me, the secret is home-cooked food with reasonable portion sizes. A good dose of discipline in practicing regular daily physical exercise (run, walk, swim, dance...), less TV and tablets, more parks and hide-and-seek games, more walks (and some gelato). Simple solutions to big challenges, like higher blood pressure, asthma, cancers and death.

Simple actions can be the motivation and the example that parents, caregivers and teachers can give to children.

I remember at school from 5 to 10 y/o we used to have break times at 10.30 a.m. with fruit and yogurts, twice a week, with a nutritionist coming in and explaining us the health benefits of eating fruit, veggies, potential allies that could strengthen our bodies and souls. They were the most colorful moments I have memory of, full of different kinds of fruit on trays and moments for "eating differently." That "eating differently" scene should become the daily routine for children and parents, because food culture and education begin at the home kitchen table.

I would like to see more children playing football or baseball, hide-and-seek or just running around the parks, as the Italian scugnizzi - children playing in the streets and in the piazzas -- do in Naples.

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