Sabotaging Your Child's Diet?

Calories may be creeping into your child's diet without you even knowing it.

A recent research published in the February issue of Pediatrics found that overweight 3-4 year olds who drank something sweet one to two times a day doubled their risk of becoming even more overweight a year later. The sweet drinks had little effect on children of normal weight. The researchers concluded that limiting sweet drinks - not just sugar sweetened drinks, but all sugary drinks (even all natural apple juice)- can help curb the rise in obesity.

Elisa Zied, a registered dietician and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association talked to The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm about the high calorie offenders and gave low calorie, nutrient filled alternatives for your kids.

Fruit juices:
High Calorie Options: White grape, apple and orange juice. These are unsweetened juices and many parents give them to their kids thinking that they're OK because they are 100 percent juice. They also have vitamin C, which is great. In moderation, of course they're fine, but the calories can really add up, and the calories from juice are not filling (as opposed to the calories from fruit, which have fiber). If it doesn't say it is 100 percent fruit juice, it's not a fruit drink. It's just a drink with lots of added sugar. White grape juice has about 170 calories and 40 grams of sugar per cup. Apple juice has about 117 calories and about 24 grams of sugar per cup. Orange juice has 22 grams of sugar per cup. (4 grams of sugar per teaspoon)

Healthier Option:
On Average a child should have only 8 oz. of fruit juice a day. Juice cartons are also fine as long as they are in 6 oz. or 8 oz. servings. One way to eliminate calories is to dilute the juice to save calories, or have plain water or seltzer/club soda with a wedge of lemon, lime or an orange slice in it. Water/seltzer has 0 calories.

Parents need to watch out for too much fat, especially trans fats, or saturated fats, in cereal. They also want to watch out for too much sugar. Fat and sugar can really increase the calorie load in cereals.

Granola cereal (High calorie cereal):
Low fat granola cereal is something many parents give to their kids, thinking it's not too caloric. But 1 cup of low fat granola can pack in 300-400 calories, 4 to 6 grams of fat, 30 to 40 grams sugar-up to 10 tsp of added sugar! Kids need to limit their added sugar intake - the sugar found in many packaged and processed foods. This is NOT the sugar found in 100 percent fruit juice or naturally in milk or fruit. A typical kid (mid range) who takes in 1,600 calories a day can take in 10 teaspoons of added sugar so essentially this cup of granola would make kids meet their daily cap for added sugar and leave no room for cookies or other sugary foods.
Healthier Option:

Look for a flaky cereal, that's less energy-dense (not so compact like granola-type cereals). For example, a healthy alternative is Oat Bran flakes; per cup, it has about 130-140 calories, less than 8 grams of sugar, 1 gram of fat, and a whopping 7 grams of fiber. So per cup, you can save between 160-260 calories - most of that savings comes from sugar and fat. And you'll still get healthy whole grains and fiber that can help prevent disease, fill kids up, and help keep their gastrointestinal system working well.

The bottom line: look for whole oats, whole wheat, whole grain corn, etc. On the ingredients list, look for fiber-- at least 5 grams of fiber per cup. Also, look for less than 10 grams of sugar (that's 2-1/2 tsps).

Snacks that say they are made with fruit juice (High Calorie Snack): 24 pieces of basic fruit snacks have 180 calories and tons and tons of sugar (about 8 tsp!). Many parents may give fruit snacks to their kids because they think they count as a fruit serving, or because they have limited/no fat, BUT fruit snacks are loaded with calories and sugar and offer little in terms of nutrients. Many people buy these snacks at the local candy stores or in bulk or packaged at the supermarket.

Healthier Option:

  1. Raisins alone - 50 raisins = about 80 calories. Twice as many raisins have less than 1/2 the calories of fruit snacks.
  2. Stalk of celery (one 5" stalk= 2 calories) topped with 1 Tbsp NATURAL peanut butter (100 calories) and 20 raisins (30 calories) = 130 calories. Fifty calories are still being saved with this option. And you get some fiber, healthy fats (monounsaturated fat) and some fruit. Your kid can still enjoy the chewy fruit, but pack in a powerful nutrition punch for fewer calories.