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The start of the school year brings new recommendations for children and teens from two major health groups—and no shortage of opportunities for retail dietitians to educate kids and their parents.
New recommendations from the American Heart Association (AHA) recommend specific limits on the amounts of added sugars consumed by kids and teens. The AHA recommends that children ages two to 18 consume less than six teaspoons of added sugars daily (equivalent to about 100 calories or 25 grams) and limit their intake of sugar-sweetened drinks to no more than eight ounces weekly.
The AHA also recommends against children under age two consuming foods or beverages with added sugars, including sugar-sweetened drinks, because the lower calorie needs of small children leave little room for foods and beverages containing added sugars. The typical American child consumes about triple the recommended amount of added sugars.
The AHA notes that eating foods high in added sugars throughout childhood is linked to the development of risk factors for heart disease, such as an increased risk of obesity and elevated blood pressure in children and young adults. The likelihood of children developing these health problems rises as the amount of added sugars consumed increases. Overweight children who continue to take in more added sugars are more likely to be insulin resistant, a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
In addition, children who eat foods with large amounts of added sugars tend to eat fewer healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
The recommendations appear in a scientific statement published in the AHA journal Circulation. The statement was written by a panel of experts who did a comprehensive review of scientific research on the effect of added sugars on children's health.
In other health news, Preventing Obesity and Eating Disorders in Adolescents, a new clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that adolescents whose parents focus on healthy eating and physical activity rather than weight are less likely to have an eating disorder or engage in unhealthy weight control behaviors.
The report’s recommendations to help prevent obesity and eating disorders among adolescents include the following lifestyle-focused steps:
- Discourage dieting, meal-skipping and use of diet pills. Encourage and support sustainable healthy eating and physical activity habits.
- Promote a positive body image. Don’t encourage body dissatisfaction or focus on body dissatisfaction as a reason for dieting.
- Encourage more frequent family meals.
- Encourage families not to talk about weight but rather to talk about healthy eating and being active to stay healthy. Put it into action by doing more of these habits at home.