Are food myths making our kids fat?

Few things are cuter than a baby with chubby cheeks and thigh rolls. But experts say that chubby babies and tubby toddlers are at risk of becoming overweight children and obese adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity rates in children are twice what they were 30 years ago. In fact, the National Academy of Sciences says that more than 10 percent of U.S. children between infancy and age 2 are overweight. Among kids ages 2 to 5, the situation is worse — more than 20 percent are too heavy, a rate that has doubled since the 1980s.

It may seem like an over-reaction, but doctors with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) say that parents and caregivers should pay close attention to weight, even in babies as young as 6 months. The more weight babies gain before age 2, the heavier they’re likely to be as adults, studies show. If one or both parents are overweight, the concern is even greater. Some overweight kids as young as 3 or 4 can already have elevated levels of cholesterol, insulin, or blood pressure. So how do we stop the gain and make sure that baby weight is also healthy? The AAP says there are several common food myths that may be at fault.

Myth 1: Juice is a Healthy Drink for Kids

Many parents believe that since fruit is healthy, fruit juice is too. But, this high-calorie, sugary beverage could be contributing to weight gain. You’re better off giving your child fresh fruit to eat, which also contains fiber that is lost in the juicing process.

Myth 2: Whole Wheat Bread is Healthy Bread

There are fewer differences between white bread and whole wheat bread than most people believe. They both have high levels of glucose that are broken down into the bloodstream the same way. This not only causes weight gain but can lead to a more serious health problem, such as diabetes. Be careful when reading bread labels and look for packages that read 100 percent whole grains. These healthier alternatives have been shown to allow for a more balanced glucose level in children.

Myth 3: Veggie Chips are Healthier than Potato Chips

This sneaky snack often contains the same number of calories as potato chips and can have the same weight gaining effects, too. The small serving of vegetables found in veggie chips are countered by the high amounts of potato and corn flour. The vital nutrients that vegetables contain are lost in the process when veggie chips are manufactured. Try cutting out the processed potato altogether and making healthy vegetable snacks at home. Kale baked with a small amount of olive oil and salt is crispy like a potato chip, without having the same unhealthy ingredients that can compromise children’s health and weight.

Myth 4: Cereal is a Great Way for Children to Start the Day

Cereal is an easy and tasty breakfast option for kids rushing to make the school bus. But beware, most child-marketed cereal options contain more sugar than the standard dessert. Better breakfast options, like fruit, low-fat yogurt, eggs, and oatmeal, give kids the energy they need without packing on the pounds.

Myth 5: Foods Labeled “Diet” and “Gluten Free“ are Healthy Choices

Food trends and product labels can mislead you into believing you’re eating a healthy diet. When deciding what to feed growing children, it’s important to look at foods as a whole. Look at things like sodium, artificial sweeteners, nutritional value, and calories. All of these play a role in determining if a food item is healthy or not.

Categories: Little Ones