​Last week, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) released its 2013 State Obesity Map detailing the percentages of respective states’ populations who are obese, those who have a body mass index of 30 or higher. 

These data, provided by residents who responded to phone surveys and housed in the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), show a snapshot of trends. According to the CDC, survey respondents answered questions “about their health-related behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services. BRFSS collects data in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories (Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands).”  
The State Obesity Map is a compelling read. For example, the CDC found that no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20 percent last year. And, looking at the historical maps provided by the CDC, the data show Maryland’s prevalence of obesity has increased over time along with those of many other states. And in the 2013 data, 28.3 percent of Marylanders surveyed had a prevalence of self-reported obesity. 

This put Maryland in the company of 23 states whose respective obesity prevalence data were between 25 percent and less than 30 percent. For non-Hispanic white Marylanders, the prevalence was 25.3. For Hispanic Marylanders, it was 25.9. For non-Hispanic black Marylanders, it was 37.5. 

Obesity concerns aren’t limited to weight. The CDC says obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the United States was $147 billion in 2008; the medical costs for obese people were $1,429 higher than those for people of normal weight, the agency says. 

Research has shown that children who are overweight or obese are likely to grow up to be adults who are overweight or obese. With that in mind, a number of government efforts target getting Maryland children to start and adhere to healthful diets and to be more physically active, including: 

  • Training 865 child care providers caring for more than 16,000 children to improve physical activity and nutrition, as highlighted in the recently released “The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America”​ report.
  • Committing to adopting Maryland's Hospital Breastfeeding Policy Recommendations or become certified as 'Baby-Friendly” (all 32 birthing hospitals in Maryland) and becoming the first hospital in Maryland to achieve Baby-Friendly designation (Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in May 2014). 

This is what makes the Maryland WIC Program's 2nd Annual Farmers' Market Cookbook such a great project. 

Released in June, the cookbook has a primary purpose to encourage visiting Farmers' Markets and highlight the use of WIC Fruit and Vegetable checks and Farmers' Market Nutrition Program Checks at Farmers' Markets. The magazine is a collection of information from partner organizations including: Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE) / University of Maryland Extension, Share our Strength/ No Kid Hungry and Fresh Baby. 

Given the state and national trends toward being overweight or obese, try to incorporate the cookbook – especially its emphasis on dark and leafy vegetables – into your family’s diet. 

Here are some tips: 

  • Make one day a week – on the weekend, if it’s easier to schedule – a time when you get your child or children to help prepare a meal, and use recipes from the cookbook.
  • If you regularly have game day get-togethers, add recipes from the cookbook to the more traditional foods. If you’re a tailgater, bring some of the cookbook’s dishes to the next game.
  • Partner with your children’s scout leaders, coaches and friends’ parents to support your goal of healthful eating for your family. The more reinforcement your children receive about making good healthful choices and associate those choices with their role models, the better. 

Remember: The more consistently you incorporate healthful food choices into your children’s lives, the easier it is to make those same choices consistently for yourself.