1 in 5 kids is overweight; Wholesome consuming makes wholesome kids
Here’s an alarming statistic: data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that one in five children in the United States is obese, and the numbers are rising.
Children today are less active than they used to be and eat more sugar and processed foods. As a result, they become heavy and out of shape, and suffer from low self-esteem and emotional disorders.
You are also at high risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, tooth decay, and cancer-related obesity.
Poor diet in children can lead to stunted growth, obesity, behavioral disorders such as tantrums and hyperactivity, sluggishness, mood swings, and learning difficulties.
In fact, high cholesterol levels in the blood have been observed in children over 5 years of age due to a poor diet high in sugar and saturated fat.
We’re not born cravings for pizza, french fries, and sodas. But these intensely flavored foods are attractive to children and they quickly develop a taste for them when exposed. Peer pressure and television commercials only make the problem worse.
Good nutrition is critical to optimal brain development in young children. During these early years, the brain develops rapidly and cognitive skills such as attention and memory develop. This requires nutrients that are lacking in today’s typical processed and sugary foods.
As parents, it is our responsibility to provide healthy, nutritious foods to our children so that they can develop healthy eating habits and reach their full potential.
Reducing the amount of sugar in our children’s diet is one of the most important steps we can take.
The American Heart Association recommends that children ages 2 to 18 not consume more than six teaspoons (24 grams) of sugar per day. They also advise children under the age of 2 not to consume any added sugar at all.
To put that in perspective, a 20-ounce bottle of regular soda contains the equivalent of 16 teaspoons (64 grams) of sugar!
Information on the added sugar content of foods can be found on the nutrition label. Make a habit of checking this out before you buy any groceries.
Sugar-sweetened drinks make up most of the sugar in children’s diets. This includes not only lemonade, but also fruit drinks, flavored milk (such as chocolate milk), lemonade, sweet tea, sports drinks and energy drinks.
When choosing foods and beverages, look for those that contain no more than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
The key here is the word “added”.
Some foods like milk, yogurt, and fruits contain naturally occurring sugars. It’s just the added sugar that we need to take care of.
It should be noted that 100% pure fruit juice does not contain any added sugar, but is a highly concentrated natural source of sugar, is very high in calories and can cause tooth decay in children. Fresh whole fruit is a better choice.
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The best drinks for children are milk and water.
Milk substitutes like almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, etc. are not as nutritious as real milk, but may be suitable for children with milk allergies who cannot consume real dairy products.
Breakfast cereals are another common source of added sugar. Check the food label again and select those that contain no more than 5 grams of sugar per serving. That’s roughly the equivalent of a teaspoon.
You can promote healthy eating habits in your children by being a good role model. What’s the point of eating vegetables for your child while you shop and snack on chips and cookies?
Involve your children in shopping and cooking. Show them how to read food labels and give them a variety of different healthy foods as they shop.
Have a variety of healthy snacks available and don’t make a habit of keeping soda, chips, and cookies around the house.
Make popsicles at home by freezing fruit juice mixed with yogurt. Or make fruit skewers with pieces of banana, berries, grapes and pineapple. Have apple slices and peanut butter ready for snacking.
Help your child develop a taste for healthy food. Reward him or her for trying a new food each week. Make it appealing.
For example, if you’re introducing broccoli, pour some cheese sauce over it and insist on just one bite.
And don’t forget about the benefits of increased physical activity.
Go cycling, swimming, skating or hiking with your children. Help them find activities that they enjoy by introducing them to a variety of activities.
You will have happier, healthier children with the opportunity to grow into balanced adults!
Susie Bond is a registered and licensed nutritionist in her own practice. Contact them at [email protected]