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Brett Klika

If you have kids, I’m sure you want to do everything in your power to make sure they grow up healthy and happy.  With the current disturbing statistics about youth obesity (1 in 3 youth is overweight), fingers are pointing in every direction as to who or what is causing this problem with our kids.  In actuality, recent literature examining nutritional habits and obesity has the culprit a little closer to home than we’d like to admit.

Recent data released by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey after over 7,100 in-home interviews on daily nutritional intake may have found this culprit.  Their data shows that kids currently get about 16% of their daily calories from sugar.  59% of that sugar comes from processed foods with sugar added, 41% comes from beverages (soda, “fruit” juice, energy drinks, coffee drinks).

About 250-350 calories from sugar per day in a child’s diet serve absolutely 0 nutritional function.  For kids that regularly drink sugar-based beverages, the average daily caloric intake from sugar is about 327 calories.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 150 calories from sugar per day for ADULTS!   These calories either take the place of higher quality nutrition, or are merely added to daily food intake as empty excess calories.  This not only adds inches to the waistline, it has been found to contribute to the early onset of problems such as insulin resistance.  This can be a pre-curser to diabetes and possible neurological issues.

With this information, we can now start constructing a case for who and/or what is responsible for a large share of our children’s health problems.  If we were playing Clue, we’d have the perpetrator (processed food and drink), the weapon (sugar), but where does this “crime” take place?

The data demonstrates that processed food and drink did it, with sugar, in the……..HOME!

Of the 7100 households surveyed over 3 years, it was discovered that 63% of daily sugar consumed by kids was done in the home.  A majority of sugar in our kids’ diets is coming from food we purchase, store, and feed them! Not only are our kids eating this way, we as adults are doing it as well, contributing to our own health calamities.

The most effective intervention is to pay attention to what you are buying and making available at home.  Look at labels and minimize processed food and beverages.  Look out for cereals and fruit juices masked as “healthy”, which often are extremely high in sugar and relatively low in nutritional content.  Try to stock your cupboards with real, whole foods and make processed foods and beverages a rare occurrence.

Yes, kids are often going to make sub-par nutrition choices at school, with friends, or when they are on their own.  After all, they’re kids.  Kids don’t have the cerebral matter to act according to how their actions may affect their future.  If you don’t have bad choices available at home, bad choices don’t become part of a child’s eating “vernacular”.  They are available sparingly and consumed as such, having minimal impact on long-term health.

Let’s take a stand against the problem in our pantry.  What are you going to do today to make sure your child grows up to be a happy, healthy, pain-free adult?

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