It was recently reported in the Journal of Nutrition that kids 8 to 15 who drank soda had higher cholesterol levels. In the U.S. alone, 30 percent of kids are considered to be overweight or obese, that’s a staggering number. Sugary drinks can lead to higher levels of triglycerides (or fat in the blood) and to a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. What makes things complicated is that many of the sugars consumed today are “hidden” in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweets, like ketchup. A single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains about 10 teaspoons sugars.
There’s so much we can do now to improve the emotional and physical wellbeing of our kids down the road. Start early and be consistent and remember it’s never too late to make changes.
- Cut Fruit Juice- Avoid or limit 100 percent fruit juice, if any, to six ounces a day, and just give at one meal, not throughout the course of the day, and dilute it. Why? Not only is it harmful for the development of healthy teeth but it spikes blood sugar levels as well. You want your child to get used to the taste of water. Steer clear of sugary fruit punches and soda. I recommend giving children water early on as the beverage of choice to quench thirst. Having a sweet palette all the time can lead to trouble.
- Eat Breakfast- Start every day with a healthy breakfast. For best results include lean proteins, whole grains and healthy sources of fats.
- No Food Bribes- Never say “clean your plate!” or offer food as a reward. It’s not about volume; it’s about the quality and variety of food. Kids do tend to self-regulate and know when they are full.
- Smart Snacking- Make healthy foods and snacks appealing and easy. Resist the temptation to rely on cookies, chips and other processed foods as the go-to family snacks
- Eat Mindfully– Skip the multitasking when it comes to eating and practice mindful eating instead. Don’t let your kids watch TV or stare at the computer while they are eating. On average, kids will eat 167 extra calories per hour and usually it’s junk food.
- No Caffeine– Say no to coffee or energy drinks. Most flavored drinks have more sugar than soda, and quite a lot of caffeine, too.
- Love Exercise- Encourage your kids to be active; have them strive for an hour of heart pumping physical activity each day.
Set a good example. Model healthy eating and drinking habits and your kids will likely follow your lead.