Wednesday, December 21, 2016

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Happy, Healthy Hearts and Minds

"Sugar itself is the culprit in numerous 
health problems."  

       --Dr. Robert Lustig, pediatric endocrinologist at University of California's San Francisco Benioff Children's Hospital

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How much sugar are your children consuming every day?  The answer is simple:  too much.

Most kids are eating and drinking added sugars, beginning before age 2.  The facts are clear: excessive intake of added sugars places children at risk for childhood obesity and other diseases.  
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A new study by Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at University of Connecticut* clearly shows that children are eating excess amounts of added sugars as a result of marketing and advertising to both parents and kids.  Added sugars cause inflammation in the body which is the underlying and/or contributing factor for type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and other diseases.  Protecting our children’s physical health is essential. 

According to National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 children between the ages of 13 and 18 has a mental illness or will develop one.  This includes illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar, and schizophrenia.  Consuming added sugars puts unnecessary and preventable stress on young, developing brains and may be a contributing factor to some of these mental illnesses.  Protecting our children’s mental health is essential. 

Happiness and health are connected. Healthy minds and bodies are connected.  One of the simplest things parents can do is to reduce and eliminate their children’s consumption of added sugars, especially high fructose corn syrup.   Replace fruit juice with fresh fruit as part of a healthy breakfast.  Buy breads that contain 4 or more grams of dietary fiber per serving and where the word “whole” (as in whole grains) is part of the first ingredient ("The Nancy Rule").  Read food labels to identify how many different sugars are included (all ingredients that end in “-ose” are sugars).  If a breakfast cereal contains more than 10 grams of sugar per serving, choose one with less sugar.  Eliminate the use of artificial sweeteners.  Stop buying and drinking sodas – both regular and diet. 
What we buy and feed our children matters.  

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Cheap colorful sugar-filled fruit drinks, snacks, energy drinks and pop tarts are nothing but poison for kids’ bodies and minds.  Take the simple first step and plan meals around vegetables, some fruits, and whole grains and legumes.  Eliminate processed sugars from what you buy.   Become aware of marketing and food industry practices that mislead shoppers into buying foods that do not meet the nutritional needs of their babies, toddlers, and children. 

Making small changes will go a long way towards protecting children’s physical and mental health. Our children's health matters.  

In gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

*To read the full report by UConn's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, click here.

To watch Dr. Robert Lustig's Sugar: The Bitter Truth presentation on YouTube (with more than 6.8 million views), click here.