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Prevent Childhood Obesity at Home with This Study Advice

Tim Boyer's picture
Study shows peanuts can help control childhood obesity

Does your child look he or she is gaining a little too much weight? Here is one way to prevent childhood obesity at home with advice from a study that parents may go nuts for.


According to a news release from the University of Houston, researchers affiliated with the Department of Health and Human Performance (HHP) conducted a 6-month study to see if they could reverse the growing BMI experienced by Hispanic middle school children.

“Obesity is the most pressing health issue facing us today,” said Craig Johnston, HHP assistant professor. “We’d like to think it’s preventable, but from where I sit right now, there hasn’t been a lot shown to be very effective on a large scale.”

One of the problems they identified among school-age children is that many do not eat a proper meal before and/or during the school day. Another problem is that these same children typically arrive home before the parents do, and are left to their own food choices without adult supervision.

The result of these two problems is that the children come home very hungry and tend to gorge on unhealthy snacks while remaining inactive in front of a computer or TV, which leads to a creeping gain in weight as the school year progresses.

“We have a lot of kids skipping meals for a whole bunch of reasons,” says Dr. Johnson. “What we found is that kids get home from school around 4 p.m. There’s less supervision by parents and less structure. Kids are sitting down at the TV and eating, eating, eating because they really didn’t eat at school.”

BMI Study on Children

To see what could be done to reverse growing BMI’s among school children, the researchers designed an experiment to see what would happen if students adhered to a nutrition intervention that combined nutrition education with a program of physical activity; and, were given a choice of accepting or not accepting a daily snack of peanuts or peanut butter offered at the end of the school day.

In the experiment, 257 Latino adolescents from three Houston-area charter schools who were determined to be at-risk of childhood obesity were given a questionnaire that divided the students into 2 groups―one likely to eat peanuts or peanut butter, and the other less likely to eat either of the two snack choices when offered.

Over the course of the study, the students who were deemed favorable toward accepting peanuts or a peanut butter snack daily did so much more frequently than members of the group who were less likely to accept the snack choice. According to the news release, peanuts were chosen because nuts are nutrient-dense snacks that promote feeling satiated.

At the end of the study, researchers found that both groups achieved lower BMIs. However, those students who received the peanuts or peanut butter snack regularly, experienced a decrease in their overall BMI that was a little over twice that of the BMI comparison made with the students who did not receive the peanut-based snacks.

The researchers came to the conclusion that afterschool programs and schools can replace energy dense, unhealthy snacks with peanuts to provide a healthier alternative for children that will have a positive effect on their individual BMI― in spite of the fact that peanuts are relatively high in fat.

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Key Points to the Study

• Childhood obesity is prevalent among Mexican American children.

• Peanuts provide an acceptable, healthy snack for children.

• Children in a high snacking adherence group demonstrated significantly greater decreases in BMI after a 6 month school-based obesity intervention program.

More about the Benefits of Peanut Butter and Managing Your Child’s Weight

The great thing about peanut butter is that it can be kept at room temp and is available in small containers that can easily fit into your child’s backpack at school for those times when he or she may miss a meal. In addition, make it a point to keep junk food out of the home and have fresh fruits readily available when they return home from a long day at school. In fact, you could make it a habit to have a ready-made peanut butter sandwich waiting for them in the fridge with a glass of milk to hold them over until dinner time.

Peanut butter is among recommended high-protein snacks for weight loss

How to add peanut butter to a special weight loss smoothie

Why you should not eat reduced-fat peanut butter


University of Houston news release “Peanuts, Peanut Butter May Hold Key to Preventing Obesity

"Benefits of a snacking intervention as part of a school-based obesity intervention for Mexican American children," Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk: Vol. 6: Iss. 2, Article 15; Moreno, Jennette P.; Mohammed, Afshan; Moore, Carolyn E.; and Johnston, Craig (2015)