Two recent studies examined sugar and salt consumption among American children, and found that American youths tend to eat too much of both.
One study, published recently in the journal BMC Public Health, found that 60 to 90 percent of school-age children develop cavities, and the researchers concluded that sugar is the number-one reason for that tooth decay. (Adults have an even higher rate: according to an article published in TIME, 92 percent of adults aged 20 to 60 have had tooth decay in at least one tooth.)
Researchers in that study recommended that parents avoid giving their children foods that are known to have high sugar content, including sodas, candies, baked sweet goods and the like. Parents should also be on the look-out for sugar content in some unexpected places, like processed meats, and condiments like ketchup.
The World Health Organization recently decreased its recommendation for sugar intake from 10 percent to 5 percent of a person’s daily calorie intake; however, the researchers in the BMC study recommended that sugar intake be only 3 percent of daily caloric intake.
Tips on Helping Your Children and Family Cut Down on Sugar
While some governmental entities have recommended for the past couple of years that fruit juices not be given to children at all (and that children eat only fruits), some of us believe that that step is too drastic. A lot of us love our natural juices and can’t imagine life without them. An approach that will work great for many parents and children is to simply dilute fruit juices with a lot of water. You will come to love this less-sweet taste.
When it comes to fruit juices, it’s important to make sure that what you are buying truly is juice. The container should read: “100% juice.” Read the ingredients label, if you have any doubts. Some inexpensive “juice-flavored beverages” that are popular with some families contain only 2 percent juice, or no juice. These beverages are just empty sugar calories, and they always contain a long list of toxic chemicals that no person should consume. So, make sure your juices are natural, and then, mix them with a lot of water. You can pour 2 or 4 ounces of juice in a glass, and fill the glass with water. Or mix all-natural carbonated water with the juice, and it will taste just like a soda (without the empty calories or chemicals in a soda).
As for candies, chocolates and cookies … what would childhood be, without them? Here again, we feel that in most cases, it’s unnecessary to cut these completely out of a child’s diet, but they should only be consumed as occasional treats, maybe once a week, instead of often. Always have healthy snacks in the home, to give your children good snacking choices.
And of course, it’s important to teach children about proper dental hygiene; it is essential to brush teeth daily, twice a day, and to floss daily. Don’t tell any dentists that we told you this, but if you eat healthily and practice daily dental hygiene … you may not have to visit a dentist for many years at a time, if at all (think of the savings!).
Kids Consume Too Much Salt, Too
The other study, by the CDC, found that 9 out of 10 American children eat too much salt in their daily diets. Children ages 6 to 18 consume an average of 3,300 milligrams of sodium a day. Government guidelines recommend that children eat less than 2,300 mg of salt a day.
A CDC director involved in the study noted that high salt consumption is harming children’s health, just like it does adults’. The researcher stated that 1 in 6 American children has “raised blood pressure,” which can develop into high blood pressure in adulthood. High blood pressure is a known primary risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
About 43 percent of the salt children eat comes from the 10 foods most commonly consumed by children. These include: hot dogs, processed cold cuts, chicken patties and nuggets, pizza and soups.
Tips for Helping Your Children and Your Family Consume Less Salt
There are several steps that you can take, to decrease salt consumption in your family. The easiest is avoiding hot dogs and processed meats altogether. These always, without exception, have lots of salt, as well as toxic chemical preservatives in them, so, why would anyone want to eat them? Same with store-bought chicken patties and chicken nuggets sold at fast food restaurants; these, too, are loaded with salt and chemicals.
The solution is to feed your family unprocessed meats — beef, chicken, fish or other fresh meats you may prefer — that way, you control the salt you use in them.
Another must is to always add vegetables to the foods your family eats. Serve the meat with salads, steamed or raw vegetables (and rice, pasta, potatoes or the starch of your choice). This is a balanced meal and is much more nutritious than just giving kids processed meats or cold cuts on bread.
If you buy a meat that was cooked at the store (for instance, a cooked chicken) which already has salt in it, balance the salt content by serving vegetables with NO salt, for example. Use less salt on the accompanying starchy dish, as well
Pizza, which is so popular with kids as well as adults, is a perfectly healthy food to eat — however, avoid pizzas that only contain pepperoni as the topping. Pepperoni, in fact, should not be eaten, because it’s high in salt and is always processed with artificial chemicals. A much better choice: eat a veggie pizza; or a pizza with beef as well as vegetables. The vegetables make it a much more nutritious, balanced meal and avoid a lot of the salt.
At home, a quick, healthy and filling snack or small meal can consist of melted natural cheese (steer clear of Velveeta or Kraft cream cheeses, as these have chemicals and “stabilizers”) on a piece of good, natural bread (natural bread is hard to find in most supermarkets; it should only have few ingredients and no chemical preservatives or fillers) … with slices of tomatoes or the fresh vegetable of your choice on it. The vegetable, again, makes the meal more nutritious and balances the salt content from the cheese.
By Jamell Andrews