While waiting at the doctor's waiting room yesterday, I browsed a few old issues of TIME. I read the issue with a cover section on childhood obesity in-depth (the lead story is here). The article listed a number of factors as contributors to the problem, all of which I find compelling. An additional factor I would list (and have mentioned before) is the deflating value of nutritional information. People are deluged with contradictory information about proper nutrition and many older people have never recovered "food panics" which later turned out to be false alarms. Obviously, the media have greatly exasperated this problem by trumpeting any new food study that arrives and under-reporting when updated studies undercut sensational findings.
For instance, the Instapundit provided these links to studies about coffee and eggs. Eggs especially have been derided so thoroughly that the fears originally raised about them in the 1980's linger still. I have made them a cornerstone in my improved daily food menu. Two-a-day. I believe they have played a key-role in helping me to lose 4o pounds. Plus, I believe they are improving my health and energy.
Of course, their aid in my weight-loss is boosted by a highly-publicized study comparing three diet approaches, low-carb, low-fat, and Mediterranean. The low-fat fared the poorest, while the other two were similar in their improvements in cholesterol and weight loss. The conventional wisdom for a long time has been low-fat is critical to preventing heart disease. However, there has been burgeoning discussion that fat and cholesterol are not necessarily connected.
Where does leave a parent trying to feed their children? I wouldn't recommended a pure Atkins diet. But, I wouldn't worry about a lots of protein and a healthy dose fat in their normal diet if you increase fruits and vegetables and decrease sugars and calories. The trouble is that I think many parents have heard so much different information that they simply give-up trying to create a balanced or sensible diet. As TIME pointed out though, poverty and location are the major factors, but nutrition misinformation should not be ignored as an issue.