Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sugar and It's Impact on Your Children's Weight

A child's diet is something that a parent establishes as a very young age. Some children are very picky eaters while others have to be stopped from over eating. Some children love vegetables while others refuse to eat any at all. One aspect of diet that most children have in common is sugar. Almost every child likes sugar and items that contain sugar. Once it is introduced, it tends to be preferred because of its appealing taste. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, sugar, however, is one of the leading factors in obesity among children now. It is something that needs to be controlled in everyone's diet. Children, along with parents and older siblings, should be aware of the sugar content in foods they eat and how it affects their bodies.
There are foods which naturally contain sugar, such as fruits, which contain fructose. Then there are foods with added sugar such as cereals, cookies, oatmeal, etc. Whether the sugar is natural or added, it has the same effects on the body.
Parents need to be mindful of the amount of sugar in items they bring home and the amount of sugar in each serving. Most cereals have approximately 15 grams of sugar per 3/4 cup. Most children have at least two cups a day, totaling more than 30 grams of sugars in cereal alone. Milk also contains approximately 13-18 grams of sugar per cup. Most children love yogurt but most yogurts have at least 18 grams of sugar per serving as well. Milk, cereal, fruit and yogurt are all staples in ca child's diet and all items that can add up to a lot of extra sugar being consumed. Mothers need to be mindful of items they buy and bring home. They need to read and understand nutritional labels. Just because there are only 5 grams of sugar per serving doesn't mean an item is good for your child. It could have 20 servings in a container, adding up to more 100 grams of sugar total.
This does not mean that parents must eliminate all sugars from their family's diet. What it means is that parents need to be mindful of the sugars their families consume. Juice is one of the items that contains the most amount of sugar per serving. Most juices, even if they are 100% real fruit juice, have more than 30 grams of sugar per cup. Dr. Lauren Lubin, M.D. recommends giving your child a piece of fruit as opposed to drinking the juice. It is not only more filling but it is also providing more nutrients. Cereals are another culprit of sugar in children's diets. Parents should restrict sweet cereals completely since children should be able to treat themselves but these cereals should be kept to a minimum. They can be served as treats on the weekends, mixed with low sugar versions of the cereal or served in small servings only a few days a week. When serving yogurt, Greek yogurts are a great option since they are natural and have little, if any, added sugar. As for treats and junk foods, Dr Lubin adds that there is a place for those types of foods in everyone's diet as well. It is not a good idea to completely restrict these foods from a child's or an adult's diet. Restricting leads to binging when the item is eaten again. These foods need to be eaten in moderation and, better yet, only on special occasions such as birthday parties, weddings, holidays, etc. Parents should also monitor serving sizes of these foods since they tend to have high caloric value along with high sugar contents.
Serving your family a proper balanced diet is one of the best things you can do for your family. Recently this has been difficult to accomplish in the US because most households have to very busy working parents. In addition, it's much cheaper to eat unhealthy, fast, easy to eat foods such as frozen meals, dollar menu drive-thru items and packaged, preservative filled goods. It is more expensive to eat healthy and buy organic foods so most parents skimp on quality and focus on quantity. In the last twenty years, the obesity rate in the United States has risen to more than 25% of the population. In the next 20 years the obesity rate is expected to rise up to 40%. That's almost half of the US population being obese.
As previously stated, the Center for Center for Disease Control and Prevention cited sugar as the main culprit in adding to the obesity rate in the US. If we don't change this now, it'll only continue to worsen as it has in the last 20 years. About 20 years ago, the fat free craze took over. It was the latest fad and the new way of "eating healthy". If the food did not contain fat, it was assumed it was good for you and you could eat as much of it and as often as you want. Fat, however, was replaced by sugar in these fat free items and what does sugar turn into when it's not burned by the body? It is turned into fat. So, eating fat free is not better than eating regular foods. In fact, you are better off eating the original version of most foods since they contain fewer additives and artificial sweeteners.
Most people would never consider eating spoonfuls of sugar throughout the day but families do this unknowingly do this regularly. Most of the liquids consumed, such as soda, juices, sports drinks and milk, all contain at least 15 grams of sugar per serving, more often twice that amount. Most popular cereals are also laden with added sugars in the form of corn syrup, glucose, brown sugar and fructose. Cookies, candy bars, cereal bars, waffles, trail mix and pretzels are other common foods in a child's diet that adds extra calories and especially added sugar.
Parents, school districts, day care centers and food makers in general should focus on providing healthier, nutritious meals to children at home and at school. Foods laden with carbohydrates and sugars don't provide the nutritional value that a child needs to make it through a day. In addition, Mike Adams, editor of Natural News.com states that any sugar and carbohydrates not burned through activity is stored by the body as fat. Snacks and meals should be comprised mostly of protein, vegetables and healthy carbohydrates such as whole grains. Fruits should be consumed but in moderation. Treats should always be allowed but parents and schools should monitor the consumption of these items and it should not be readily accessible to children throughout the day. Children do not inherently have self-control, it must me learned and taught.
Help this country avoid reaching nearly 50% obesity and help our youth get healthy. Encourage healthy, balanced meals and snacks. Encourage physical activity instead of video games. Teach your children about nutrition and the importance it plays in their lives.

More resources

  • www.theparentcenter.net
  • http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/children/
  • http://children.webmd.com/obesity-children

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