In addition to developing tools such as the MyPyramid for good nutrition, the federal government needs to expand its budget so it can publicize and market these tools to fully educate consumers on how to use them.

That’s among the suggestions that seven grain-based organizations submitted to the federal Taskforce on Childhood Obesity. The groups urged the taskforce to provide the budget for the pyramid as well as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) that are being revised this year.

The groups, which include the American Bakers Association, Grain Foods Foundation, North American Millers Association, the Wheat Foods Council and others, cite the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyamid Partner Program as an example of how government and the industry can promote the dietary guidelines and MyPyramid to a broad audience.

“A similar effort tied to Let’s Move would help extend government resources while ensuring that all entities are delivering the same message to the consumer,” the associations noted. “We should effectively use the tools we already have and streamline efforts before inventing new layers and products that could confuse intended key messages.”

Instead of flooding parents with nutrition information, the taskforce should focus on promoting the dietary guidelines, which are based on emerging sound science over the years, the groups noted.

“If people followed them, we would have slimmer, healthier, more active citizens, both young and old,” the comments stated. “The guidelines embrace all foods in moderation and emphasize increased exercise.”

Moreover, the Healthy Eating Index is available online and could be incorporated with science or health classes so that students could actually analyze their diets and physical activity.

The coalition of food groups cautions that the government should avoid using the body mass index, or BMI, to measure children’s body fat because research shows it may not be necessarily accurate in a multiethnic population. In fact, a study by the government’s Children’s Nutrition Research Center noted that 17% of children with normal percentages of body fat were incorrectly classified as “at risk of overweight” or “overweight.”

“At the same time, the taskforce must address the importance of self-esteem and body acceptance among adults and children,” the groups advised.

People, the comments added, come in all shapes and sizes. An “ideal” body or weight is often forced on girls and women with little or no scientific bases and can cause undue stress that may lead to eating disorders.

“While we must help prevent childhood obesity, it is important that we do not do it at the expense of children’s self-esteem,” the groups stated.

The associations also emphasized that schools should provide children with a safe way to play outside and exercise after school hours and on weekends, or to have recess before lunch to increase students’ activity.
 
“A major element that has been ignored by the nutrition community previously is the physical activity of the equation,” the comments noted. “While exercise is not as effective in reducing weight, it is very effective in preventing weight gain and in preventing re-gaining by those who have lost weight.”