Obesity Offensive

South Bay kids and the fight to be fit

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  • Written by
    Zoe Alexander

The fact is sobering. One-third of our nation’s children are obese. We are aware of the culprits: Children are more sedentary, busy parents rely on fast foods, and our dining culture is “supersized.” 

It may be tempting to slap a prescription for exercise and diet on our young population, but parents and patients often need more structured and personalized support to battle a condition that ultimately affects the entire family. Both Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach and Torrance Memorial Medical Center offer such guidance for obese children and their families. 

Dr. Divya Joshi, a pediatric oncologist and chief medical officer of Miller Children’s, is concerned about the epidemic. She states, “In Long Beach, 25% of children between 5 and 19 are obese … and obese children are twice as likely to die before age 55. This is tragic. This is the first generation of children who will actually not live as long as their parents.” 

Obese toddlers and children are likely to grow up to be obese, and the complications they face include diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, asthma and low self-esteem. Miller Children’s also partners closely with The Children’s Clinic. 

Dr. Joshi describes their efforts: “They are a group of pediatricians who have teamed up with the health department, the school district, local chefs and community advocates, and they have formed The Long Beach Alliance for Food and Fitness.” 

They work with the school district and the community to increase the number of healthy food choices in cafeterias and markets and to create safer neighborhoods for recreation. Miller has proven to be a vital resource for South Bay families struggling with obesity, and the hospital plans to open a dedicated obesity center, under the guidance of Dr. Stephanie Abrams.

Emily Parker, a registered dietician at Torrance Memorial, is another South Bay practitioner who works with obese children and their families. She aims to change each child’s diet, to identify family goals in order to stay motivated, and to examine their relationship to food. 

Parker also conducted a family survey to study children with diabetes. She notes, “We found consistently that the strongest correlation of healthful eating attitudes and behavior of children was when the whole family was on board.” 

Through Kids N Fitness, a partnership with Torrance Memorial Medical Center and the Torrance-South Bay YMCA, Parker has also taught kid/family fitness classes. She emphasizes that activity should be integral to daily life. 

“Making family time active, going to a park instead of going to a movie, or making sure there is intentional time for children to move for at least 60 minutes a day is very important.” She also states that setting gradual, small goals over time helps families maintain new, healthy habits.

Both Dr. Joshi and Parker suggested crucial changes parents can make, such as educating themselves about ingredients by reading labels, eliminating sodas and fruit juices, and stocking the home with snack foods such as fresh vegetables and yogurt. Joshi also believes that children can indulge in a treat sometimes. Just do so judiciously.

These efforts have paid off; current obesity rates have not risen in the past year. While fast food is not something one would recommend, Parker notes that packaged foods have become somewhat healthier, fast food chains now offer organic proteins and vegetarian options, and most insurance plans cover services related to the disease. With these gradual changes and dedicated health care facilities to offer support, we can look forward to childhood obesity becoming a thing of the past.



Local health pros provide yummy snack food options.


Mint Chip Dessert Shake

Delicious and guilt-free!

1 organic kale leaf

1 handful of mint 

1 frozen banana 1 cup almond milk

1 or 2 dates

1 scoop Vega One French Vanilla (plant-based)

1 cup of ice

1 handful of cacao nibs

Add all ingredients into a blender, ideally a VitaMix so it will break down the dates. Mix for 1 minute on medium-high, making sure it is in a shake form. Add a small handful of cacao nibs, and blend on low for 7 seconds. These will be chewable; however, if you have kids under 5 years of age, blend them up all the way. Serve and enjoy.

Courtesy of Jasmine Micaela Sharp, The Formula Life Pilates & Juice Bar


Tiny Tacos

Makes 10 Tiny Tacos

These miniaturized versions of tacos are one of my all-time favorite kid-friendly snacks. Not only can you eat 10 of them (how often do you get to eat 10 whole anything—outside this book, anyway—when you’re eating healthy?) for only 200 calories. 

10 Tostitos Baked! Scoops 

¼ cup finely shredded romaine lettuce 

2 tablespoons finely chopped tomatoes

½ ounce (about 2½ tablespoons) finely shredded low-fat cheddar cheese 

1 teaspoon lower-sodium taco seasoning  

2 ounces 96% lean ground beef  

1 tablespoon mild or hot red taco sauce 

Arrange the Scoops side by side on a plate. Mix the lettuce, tomatoes and cheese in a medium bowl until well combined. Divide evenly among the Scoops (about 1½ teaspoons per Scoop). Stir 2 teaspoons water into the taco seasoning in a small bowl until it has no lumps. Set aside. 

Preheat a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Brown beef, using a wooden spoon to coarsely crumble it. When the beef is no longer pink, after 1 to 2 minutes, stir in the seasoning mixture. When no liquid remains, after about 1 minute, remove from the heat. 

Divide the meat evenly among the Scoops, atop the lettuce mixture (about 1 teaspoon in each). Dollop the top of each with taco sauce. Serve immediately. 

Courtesy of Devin Alexander, The Biggest Loser Flavors of the World Cookbook