How does your child’s diet look like?
Breakfast: Wake up and have some chocolate cereal
Snack: Some biscuits and fruit juice at school
Lunch: A home cooked meal with a glass of fruit juice
Snack: Time for some chocolate crepe in the afternoon
Dinner: A sandwich or cereal again for the picky eaters
Does this look familiar? You may have overlooked the amount of sugar that is in your child’s diet.
Overweight at an early age:
With the diet shift that has been occurring for years, children have been consuming foods that are rich in sugar, fat or both, usually at the expense of nutritious foods. These all impact their health and add to the increasing rise of obesity, beginning at an early stage.
There has been a significant rise of childhood weight and obesity both globally and in Lebanon. This puts children at risk of developing chronic diseases like type two diabetes earlier than before!. A study conducted by the American University of Beirut on the overweight and obesity trends in Lebanon found that the odds of obesity were almost doubled from the years 1997 until 2009 in children and adolescents aged 6-19 years old.
So let’s look back at the diet habits. As a parent, you may be thinking that cereal is a well-balanced breakfast. What you need to know is to always read food labels. A review by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), of the variety of popular children’s breakfast cereals found that most had as much sugar as junk food, if not more. Similarly, bottled fruit juice contains almost the same amount of sugar as sodas. Added sugar is hidden in many kinds of processed foods, this also includes ketchup, fruit yogurts, and granola bars.
|2 cups cereal (24 grams) + 2 cups of fruit juice (48 grams) + 4 biscuits (14 grams) + 1 Tablespoon chocolate spread (16 grams) = 102 grams of sugar|
So, here is the scary truth: when we add up the sugar of a one-day sample menu that equals to a total of 102 grams of sugar. That's about triple the recommended amount of sugar, if your child eats 1500 calories a day! We haven’t even included the chocolate bars and candy! Add those to the total and the sugar accumulates, contributing to increased weight and health risks.
The recommended daily amount of sugar by the World Health Organization (WHO) is less than 10% of the total calories consumed, and is set to be revised to half the amount. Remember, starting nutritious habits at an early stage will get your kids on the right track towards good health.
Here are some tips on what you can do to limit your child’s sugar intake and promote healthy habits:
Read food labels:
Make sure you know how much sugar there is per serving. Not all cereals are the same, look for high fiber, low sugar options. Look for the hidden sources of sugar found in many popular items including yogurts, granola bars and sauces.
There are many different names used for sugars including, corn syrup, dextrin, honey, invert sugar, maple syrup, raw sugar, beet sugar, cane sugar, corn sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, malt, molasses...
Look for healthier options:
Try to make your own breakfast mixture using oats and fruits that provide a slow release of carbohydrates, fibers, and vitamins and minerals. Go for whole fruits instead of the fruit juice. Plain yogurt is a great snack that can also be paired with fruits. Instead of processed and packaged foods, try making home made snacks where you can control the ingredients.
Get used to water:
Water is the best drink to stay hydrated. Always choose water instead of soda beverages, sweetened juices, and sports drinks. Children and adolescents should be consuming at least 2-2.5L of water per day.
The decrease in activity among children is also a contributor to weight gain. Try increasing daily activities through fitness classes, active play times, or even turning family time into an outdoor activity.