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New Year, New Diet


As the school year begins, leave summer’s bad habits behind

nutritionIt’s hard to believe that it’s time to start school again! It’s been a long, hot summer of lounging at the pool and frolicking on the beach. Many enjoyed smoothies, snowballs, ice cream, milkshakes, sodas, chicken fingers and fries and fast-food stops on the road. Now it’s time to get back to daily routines and better eating habits.

Obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are rapidly increasing among children. A healthy diet will not only prevent many of these maladies but will also boost energy levels, help kids perform better in school and increase self-esteem. Maintain healthy habits and a healthy weight and the body and mind will follow.

There are some nutrition pitfalls that are easy for kids to fall into. Some concerns are too many liquid calories, sugary breakfast choices and fast-food meals.

What should your child limit?

Soft drinks

Juices (even 100% juice). Most are 150 to 200 calories per serving, the same as a soft drink

Smoothies made with added sugar (turbinado, honey, etc.)

Ice cream, shakes, malts

Sports drinks (Gatorade/Powerade)

  • Only if exercising for more than an hour in a hot environment

Diet drinks (limit to 1 a day)

  • Contains aspartame and caffeine

Punches (High-calorie with no nutrition)

  • Hawaiian Punch
  • Kool-Aid (made with sugar)
  • Capri Sun
Product Sugar (grams) Calories Packets of Sugar
20 oz. Coke 46 230 12
1 liter Coke 73 360 18
16 oz. Fruit Punch 78 300 19
4 Fat-free Cookies 40 200 10
20 oz. Gatorade 30 170
1 cup Cocoa Puffs/Fruit Loops 15 120 4
1 Glazed Doughnut 10 200
2 Pop-Tarts 28 300 7

Food typically high in sugar will zap energy levels:

  • Cereals
  • Pop-Tarts
  • Doughnuts
  • Candy bars

Chocolate milk and sugary cereals such as Fruity Pebbles, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cap’n Crunch, and Pop-Tarts are the same as giving your child a candy bar or a bowl of sugar for breakfast!

Avoid high-calorie/high-fat fast-food meals, or at least aim for more-sensible choices:

  • Control portion sizes
  • Don’t “super-size” meals
  • Order a child’s meal-Choose apples, baked chips, salad or chili instead of fries
  • Order a regular healthy meal and split it
  • Opt for grilled or baked chicken over fried
  • Choose milk or water over soft drinks

Where calories add up:

  • Small fries (210 calories)
  • Medium fries (450 calories)
  • Super-size fries (610 calories)
  • Small soda (16 oz., 150 calories)
  • Medium soda (21 oz., 210 calories)
  • Super-size soda (42 oz., 410 calories)

Note that “super-sizing” the meal is an extra 700 calories!

To encourage optimal nutrition for kids, parents need to focus on nutrient-dense foods instead of energy-dense foods. Nutrient-dense foods are foods that are high in nutritional value and naturally low in calories, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meat and whole grains. Energy-dense foods are high in calories but low in nutritional value, such as sodas, candy, cookies, high sugar cereals.

Remember: Optimal nutrition equals optimal health!