Friday, June 15, 2012

Reducing Sugar: Reversing the Too Sweet Kids' Diet

The University of Calgary recently conducted a study to investigate kids' diets. They found that more than half of the foods marketed to toddlers contained at least 20 percent of their calories from sugar. Many of these foods are considered staples: yogurt, cereal, and snacks. Turns out, the low-fat craze that began in the 1990s prompted food manufacturers to replace fats with sugar, so now we're seeing sugar show up in places it's never been before: salad dressing, hamburger buns, pretzels, chips.

Sweeteners, from agave nectar to high fructose corn syrup, all behave the same way in the body. The liver metabolizes fructose, and too much sugar puts added strain on the liver. Too much sugar stimulates the liver to trigger fat production, which can boost belly fat and cholesterol levels. This is heavy stuff. What's a parent to do when sweetened foods are all around your child?

Here are some simple things you can do to reduce your kids' consumption of sugar:

  • Limit fruit juice to one glass a day. Although fruit juice contains vitamin C, your body reacts to it in the same way it reacts to Kool-Aid; it's a too-quick dose of fructose for the liver to manage well.
  • Avoid other sweetened beverages. A can of soda at a barbecue every now and then won't cause much damage, but multiple servings of soda every day leads to obesity and dental problems.
  • Look for unsweetened foods. Buy natural applesauce instead of sweetened applesauce, canned fruit that doesn't contain added sugar, and plain yogurt. 
  • Keep your kids active.  Exercise slows down the liver's cycle and allows less fat to enter the bloodstream.
  • Don't ban sweets. Banning sugar altogether will only make your kids crave it. Instead, aim for moderation and healthy alternatives.

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