Sugary Foods Do Affect Children’s Long Term Health
A treat here or there is not harmful, but repeatedly offering a nutrition-poor diet to children will ultimately affect their long-term health.
Unfortunately, our children’s diets are not currently meeting their nutritional needs. Too many calories – especially “empty calories” - not only contributes to weight issues but can also strain the liver and alter metabolism. This increases your child’s risk of developing a cardiometabolic disease as an adult.
Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland have found that excessive sugar impacts blood fats which can lead to elevated cholesterol levels. For example, levels of oleic acid was higher in children who consumed a lot of sugar versus eating more whole grain foods. This contributes to high triglyceride levels which in turn increases risk of heart disease.
Excess sugar intake is also associated with higher activity of a certain enzyme in the liver which promotes excretion of fatty acids into the blood. Having elevated enzyme activity suggests that the liver is forming fatty acids faster than the body can metabolize them – so they circulate in the blood, again raising the risk of heart disease.
According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, obesity rates have increased in children between the ages of 12 to 19 years old over the past decade. Overweight children and adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
Empty calories from added sugars and solid fats now contribute 40% of total daily calories for kids. Most of these come from soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, and fast foods such as pizza.
Here are 8 ways to improve your child’s diet, from Super Healthy Kids:
1. Read labels! Similar products can result in hugely different amounts of sugar. Instant Oatmeal (the flavored kind), granola bars, cereals, muffins, and yogurts are great examples. Often, you can continue to purchase these kid favorites by just changing the brand you buy
2. Bake more often. If your kids love cookies, baking at home will allow you to use less sugar
3. Eliminate sugar added beverages– Altogether, period. There is no reason to have sugar sweetened soda pop or sugar added juices in your home.
4. Plan your meals and snacks. When you plan your meals and snacks, that urgent feeling of finding anything to eat, no matter the healthfulness of it is eliminated. If you don’t plan for it, vending machines and fast food await you, full of their sugars and chemicals.
5. Count sugar! There are constant studies being released that show by simply tracking food intake, people will eat better.
6. Intentional Trade-offs. If your kids can identify they have a craving for something sweet, offer fruit.
7. Know the hidden sugar offenders. Just knowing these will make you a smarter shopper. Foods that often include added sugar include: Spaghetti sauce, breads, hamburger and hot dog buns, medications, lunch meats, and sometimes canned beans and vegetables! Make your own, or opt for the brands that do not include added sugar in their ingredient lists.
8. Change their super sweet sugar tolerance. As your family reduces their sugar intake and increases the whole foods in their diet, their tolerance for sugar returns to it’s normal and natural state. This change is gradual but it definitely happens. If you can commit to keeping added sugar under 25 grams a day- and less if possible, than kids will begin to desire less sweet foods.
T. M. Vena la inen, T. A. Lakka et al. Effect of a 2-y dietary and physical activity intervention on plasma fatty acid composition and estimated desaturase and elongase activities in children: the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2016; 104 (4): 964 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.116.136580
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