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Could cutting 64 calories a day reverse the childhood obesity epidemic?

Photo: Pink Poppy Photography via Flickr

Sixty-four calories. That’s the number a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found children in the U.S. must eliminate to help slash childhood obesity by 2020.

If children don’t either decrease their calorie intake or increase physical activity – or both – more than 20% will be obese by 2020 and the average U.S. child will be nearly four pounds heavier than a child of the same age in 2007-2008.

But could 64 calories really be the magic number to preventing such scenarios?

To find out we asked University of Minnesota School of Public Health epidemiologist Jamie Stang, Ph.D. Her answer: 64 calories is a start, but there probably is no magic bullet.

“Childhood obesity isn’t a problem with a quick-fix solution,” Stang said. “It will take the cooperation of parents, educators, health care providers, schools, communities, the food industry, policymakers and the teens themselves, all working together to create more opportunities for healthful eating. Some children may also need to achieve a higher calorie reduction or exercise output than others, and for families with sedentary kids, 64 calories they may be disappointed in the lack of weight loss.

So how can children eliminate these calories from their diets? According to Stang:

  • Consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages among the basic food groups.
  • Choose foods with limited saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars and salt.
  • Meet recommended intakes within energy needs by adopting a balanced eating pattern.
  • Engage in regular physical activity and reduce sitting for extended periods of time.
  • Have approximately 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activities daily.

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