LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV)--Finding healthy options might be challenging for the teen at home. According to the Centers for Disease Control, many Arkansans live further out from a considerable size grocery store than a fast food restaurant.
When it comes to finding healthy alternatives for their children, some parents don't play around.
North Little Rock resident and mother of 15-month old Mi-Lone says,
"Right now, I try to back away from greasy foods and back away from sweets." Searcy dad, Brad Miller says daughters Emily and Eden like going to fast food restaurants, but when they do, he takes the good with the bad; "We try to avoid the fries, it's hard to avoid the main course, the chicken nuggets or hamburgers, but you can get a side of fruit."
And while these toddlers have their parents to help them make the better choices, when they get older, it might not look so clear.
Fast food restaurants reign supreme in many communities. While the local grocery store is either far away or in the case of the Harvest Foods that closed years ago, is non-existent.
According to Arkansas Children's Hospital pediatrician Dr. Carrie Brown, the CDC highlights the proximity of fast food restaurants in communities. She says, "There are some counties in Arkansas where there 40, 50 and 60 percent of people that fall into that category."
According to the report, most people live less than a mile from a fast food restaurant but 10 miles from a reasonable grocery store; leaving many kids food insecure--not knowing when and where their next meal will come from. Dr. Brown explains, "It's really disturbing; how to expect kids to learn and grow and become the adults we expect them to be if we don't have a reasonable way of feeding them with the nutrients that they need."
According to one online report, 9th graders whose schools are within a block of a fast-food outlet are more likely to be obese than students whose schools are a quarter of a mile or more away.
And that can lead to obesity and other health problems down the road, like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Dr. Brown says, "We're creating a generation of kids that are going to be overweight and nutritionally malnourished, unhealthy and they're not going to do as well."
Parents should talk with your kids about the importance of choosing healthier choices. Also, if buying healthier is more expensive, contact your local food bank to see if they can help.
According to Brown, 20 percent of Arkansas kids are obese. And because of rising obesity rates, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends cholesterol screening for kids as young as five.