CAT | Kids Health
Too much time spent watching TV and playing on their tablets instead of exercising may be damaging to our children’s health, according to new information from researchers at the University of Finland’s Institute of Biomedicine.
Using data from the ongoing physical activity and nutrition in children (PANIC) study initiated in 2007, scientists found that low levels of physical activity combined with heavy electronic media use translates to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and certain vascular diseases in young children. Not only that, but even in kids who were more physically active, more time spent engrossed in electronics was found to have adverse health effects. Poor eating habits were also linked to increased diabetes risk.
In type 2 diabetes the body fails to use insulin properly, resulting in high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Because new research shows children as young as four years old have been found to have blood sugar problems (a precursor to type 2 diabetes), parents are encourage to teach kids about nutrition, healthy eating habits, and the importance of physical activity and a healthy body weight. Here are four simple things you can do every day:
- Set the example. When your kids see you making healthier choices, they will want to do the same. Keep junk food out of the house, and encourage healthy snacking on low-sugar fruits, non-starchy veggies, low-fat dairy products, healthy fats and lean protein. Most importantly, get rid of sugar! Your kids don’t need it, and neither do you.
- Make exercise a priority. Research shows regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem, and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels.i CDC guidelines call for 60 minutes or more of physical exercise daily for children and adolescents, so let’s get active!
- Set limits on TV & electronic media time. A recent Kaiser Foundation study found that kids and teens between the ages of 8 and 18 spend more than seven hours a day using electronic media.ii Instead of giving kids free reign over how much time they spend in front of the tube, surfing the web, or tapping away on their tablets or cell phones, establish some solid ground rules and stick to them.
Make healthy snacking simple. At the beginning of each week, cut up plenty of fruits and veggies and keep kid-size portions in the fridge for easy snacking. The same goes for good protein sources such as turkey slices, nuts and nut butters, and low-fat plain Greek yogurt, since protein is important for growing bodies and will help keep your child’s appetite satisfied throughout the day.
It’s scary, really, when you consider that one cup of the popular breakfast cereal Honey Smacks contains even more sugar than a Twinkie. This comes from a new report released by non-profit research and advocacy organization Environmental Working Group (EWG) after their experts examined more than 80 popular cereal brands marketed directly to children.
The report, titled Sugar in Children’s Cereals: Popular Brands Pack More Sugar than Snack Cakes and Cookies, also tells us many children’s cereals fail to meet the government’s proposed guidelines for sugar content, which recommend no more than 26 percent added sugar by weight. According to the study, over half of the cereals reviewed surpassed that number—packing more sugar than popular junk food desserts like snack cakes and cookies.
So what’s the problem with all that sugar? Let’s start with obesity. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years,i putting American children at an increased risk for developing obesity-related illness and disease. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In a recent statement, the American Heart Association revealed kids as young 1-3 years already consume around 12 teaspoons (roughly 48 grams) of sugar each day, and by the time they’re teens that number will nearly triple.ii According to the EWG report, kids who consume high-sugar breakfasts are more likely to have problems at school—including difficulty concentrating and paying attention in class. As a result, they are more likely to make mistakes on their work. They also have less energy and are hungrier throughout the day.
Because the manufacturers that develop and sell these high-sugar cereals and other processed food products continue to lobby for more lenient nutritional guidelines, parents need to be vigilant about proper diet and making sure children are getting the vital nutrients essential for their well-being. EWG’s report provides a list of the “10 Worst Children’s Cereals,” along with tips for choosing smarter breakfast options, to help parents make sure kids get a healthier start each day.