Making healthy food choices

kids_foodThe latest update to the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans could be good news for kids’ health! The new dietary guidelines say – more strongly than ever – to choose a diet that includes plenty of plant foods and one with far less added sugar than many Americans eat. Across the country this should mean children begin to have access to and eat healthier foods in schools, daycare, and other food programs. And as these kids become adults, that could mean fewer cancers associated with poor diet and obesity.

For putting the new Dietary Guidelines into practice for you and your family, there are three big changes that you can do to make a difference now:

1. Limit added sugar to no more than 10 percent of your total calories daily.  You may already work at doing this, but now you can put an amount on it. For example, an 8-year old child needs on average 1600 calories per day. Ten percent is 160 calories, equal to 40 grams of sugar. For that amount your child could have about one 6-ounce cup of low fat fruit yogurt (20 grams added sugar) and a 1.5 ounce chocolate bar  (20 grams added sugar) per day.

That’s important because eating foods with a lot of added sugar can lead to overweight and obesity, a cause of 10 adult cancers, including colorectal, postmenopausal breast and kidney.

Right now, it’s not easy to know how much added sugar is in foods until the food label changes but you can look at the ingredient list for sugar words. You can show your child how much sugar is in regular soda and fruit drinks – every 4 grams of added sugar equals one teaspoon. Get out the sugar and measuring spoons and let them measure out the 9 or 10 teaspoons of sugar in 12 ounces of these drinks. You’ll be surprised how quickly sugar intake adds up, especially in teens diets!

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