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  • Denise Scott

Fighting the Childhood Obesity Epidemic and Preventing Type 2 Diabetes - Part 4

The final article in the series this month outlines further ways to improve eating habits to prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes in children. In addition to this article, please see the blog from 5/8/24, ”Improving the Nutrient Density of Meals.”

First and foremost, decrease or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages. These account for almost half of the sugar consumption in this country.

1. Ways to start:

  • Reduce portion sizes and don’t feel a need to finish everything on the plate

  • Substitute fruit or a vegetable for a carbohydrate-rich food

  • Replace high-calorie beverages, such as soft drinks or fruit juices, with water

  • Eat at home more frequently instead of eating at restaurants or getting carry-out 

  • Have your child help make meals

  • Eat at the dinner table instead of in front of the TV

2. Make simple swaps.

Switch simple carbohydrates for complex carbohydrates, to increase fiber and maintain steady blood sugar levels.

Photo of a variety of mostly complex carbohydrates including whole grains and whole wheat pasta. Simply changing from simple to complex carbohydrates improves sugar and fiber intake.

  • Swap white bread for whole wheat or whole grain.

  • Swap white rice for brown. 

  • Swap regular pasta for whole wheat pasta or pasta made from vegetables.

  • Look for cereals with the fewest grams of added sugars (5 grams or fewer), or better yet, choose old-fashioned oatmeal or eggs for breakfast. (see post on The Problem with Breakfast, 12/7/22),

  • Try a variety of grains such as oats, quinoa, farro, buckwheat, and more.

  • When baking, choose flour made from whole wheat or whole grains such as almond or oat flour.

3. Read labels:

  • Choose items that do not list sugars in the first 5 ingredients.

  • Look for those that have no or minimal added sugars.

4. Improve your choices:

Mother serving her children fruit as a snack. Keeping cut up fruit and veggies readily available makes it easier to increase your family's intake of these.

  • Eat whole fruit for snacks and treats.

  • Use vegetables, such as avocados, sweet potatoes, and black beans, to make desserts. (See post Sweet Tooth, from 8/10/22),

  • Instead of granola bars or candy, make your own trail mix or granola.

  • Choose plain yogurt and sweeten it yourself with berries or honey.

  • Make your own smoothies at home with milk, yogurt, and fresh or frozen fruit.

  • Choose sliced fruit on sandwiches rather than jelly or jam.

  • Look for zero-added-sugar items for nut butter, marinades, ketchup, and pasta sauces.

  • Choose fresh or frozen items rather than canned items.

These choices decrease sugar and calories and increase nutrient density by increasing vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.

5. Finally, change your habits:

  • Prepare meals at home as much as possible to know what is in your food.

  • Involve your child in cooking to teach them healthy choices and improve their chances of trying new things.

Two brothers cutting fruit and vegetables, helping with meal preparation. Research shows that kids are more likely to eat what they help to prepare.

(Not sure why the younger one has the larger knife!)

To summarize - there are NO health benefits from added sugar. Reducing sugar consumption goes a long way in reducing your child’s future health risks. The ultimate goal is preserving health by how we feed our children now to prevent diseases later. It works!

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