Introduce sugar free drinks to children to reduce added sugars

Winning Kids Over from Sugary Drinks to Ones with Less Added Sugar or Sugar-Free Drinks

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com. You can read the original post here

Every generation of parents faces different challenges when it comes to raising their children. That may explain why grandparents and their adult children don’t always see eye-to-eye over what a child should eat for breakfast. Yet the one part of childhood nutrition they usually do agree on is the need to reduce the amount of added sugars children consume.

Back when I was in elementary school parents and teachers warned us to cut back on added sugars to avoid cavities and those dreaded trips to the dentist for drillings and fillings. Today, thanks to fluoridated water and better dental hygiene, childhood tooth decay is better controlled. Now children face rising rates of obesity and excess added sugars are being blamed for contributing to the problem.

So when I get questions from parents (and grandparents) about whether their children should have chocolate milk or plain milk with their school lunch, drink lemonade or lemon seltzer at the family picnic, or order a soda or glass of water at a pizza party, I recommend drinks that replace sugar with low-calorie sweeteners, like SPLENDA® Sweetener Products, for a simple solution.

As fellow Registered Dietitian Hope Warshaw explained in her blog, “American Academy of Pediatrics Weighs In on Added Sugar and Sugar Substitutes,” the Academy recognizes the safety of low-calorie sweeteners for children and their use as a tool to reduce the added sugars and calories in a child’s diet. The important point here is that they are a tool, and when used as part of a balanced diet, low-calorie sweeteners can help children enjoy a wide variety of foods and beverages they might not be willing to eat without a little sweetness.

 Lead By Example

The best way to introduce children and teens to drinks with less added sugar is to let them see you choosing and drinking them. They should feel good about the choice, not stigmatized for having something labeled “sugar free.” It also helps if you serve just one beverage option for everyone in the family instead of segregating the sugar-free version for only some members. And it makes life easier when you only have to find room for just one pitcher of sugar-free iced tea on the picnic table!

Another important behavior to model for children is moderation. Serving sizes of no-calorie and low-calorie beverages should be age appropriate along with their frequency of use. And they should never replace recommended servings of low-fat milk and 100% fruit juices that provide essential nutrients.

Special occasions like birthday parties and youth sporting events provide a perfect opportunity to offer drinks with less added sugar to a child since plenty of high-calorie foods are typically being eaten, including many that contain added sugars. These occasions also provide a very effective “teachable moment” for a child when they realize they can have the frosted cupcake or goody bag of candy and the drink with less added sugar, but must give up the treats if they have the sugar-sweetened drink.

Let Children Help

Allowing children to help prepare family meals is a valuable way to teach them about good nutrition. A good place to start is by making smoothies together. This Strawberry Orange Smash Smoothie contains strawberries, calcium fortified orange juice, non-fat yogurt and SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener to make a delicious and nutritious drink for kids of any age.

Since most children love watermelon and it doesn’t require a sharp knife to chop up once cut open, you can let your little ones help make this Watermelon Lemonade. Just make sure they wear their swim goggles while squeezing the lemons!

And if you have teenagers looking for something more “sophisticated” to drink, let them try this Homemade Chai. It’s full of flavor from the fresh ginger and dried spices with just enough sweetness from SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, to keep them smiling as they sip.

You can find many more beverage recipes with less added sugar on Splenda.com and more good advice on dealing with childhood weight gain and obesity in the blog “Small Changes Can Help Children and Teens Manage Weight” by my colleague Sue Taylor.
I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

creating chocolate flavored milk in a laboratory

Debate Over Ingredients in Milk Served at Schools

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.

FLAVORED MILK IS A POPULAR DRINK FOR CHILDREN, BUT SOME PARENTS ARE NOT HAPPY WITH PROPOSED CHANGES IN ITS INGREDIENTS

Misinformation about the labeling of flavored milk has been in the news lately, and that’s not good. There are always people ready to attack the food industry no matter what they do, but if they suspect a drink for children is being altered in some way – especially the ingredients in milk – it really gets them up in arms.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had to count to ten and wait for the facts to seep in before we reacted to headline news?

Who Decides What’s in Our Food?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established a “standard of identity” for 300 “common and usual” foods and beverages. These are legal definitions that specify the minimum and maximum ingredient requirements for any product sold under a specific name, such as “strawberry jam,” the optional ingredients that may be used in that food and those that are prohibited, as well as processing specifications.

These standards were developed to protect consumers from the problem of inconsistent quality when different food items are sold under the same name. With standards of identity in place, all manufacturers must include a certain amount of strawberries, by weight, in their strawberry jam or call it something else.

The standards also provide a means of penalizing companies that try to sell adulterated products, and they protect us from the economic fraud that can occur when strawberry jam is made with more strawberry gelatin than strawberries.

These standards have even been used to help improve the nutritional value of foods.

So far so good.

What Are the Ingredient’s in Milk?

The standard of identity for “milk” defines the percent solids it must contain (8 ¼ ) and fat (not less than 3 ¼ for whole milk), the amount of vitamins A and D that can be added, and that it must be pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized.

The optional ingredients include natural and artificial flavoring, color additives, emulsifiers, stabilizers and nutritive sweeteners. The list of allowed nutritive sweeteners is long, but includes beet or cane sugar, brown sugar, invert sugar (in paste or sirup form), molasses (other than blackstrap), high fructose corn sirup, fructose, fructose sirup, maltose, dried malt extract, honey and maple sugar.

When one of those optional sweeteners is used in “flavored milk,” it does not have to be named on the front label. Consumers must check the ingredient list to see which one was used. That is, if they realize flavored milk is sweetened.

The uproar over the possible use of sugar substitutes in flavored milk suggests many consumers don’t realize this popular drink for children already contains added sugar.

The Proposed Change in Labeling Flavored Milk

Sugar substitutes are not on the list of allowed optional ingredients in the standard of identity for milk, so their use would require a front of package declaration. The International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation want to change that. They proposed an amendment to the standard of identity for milk that would allow the use low calorie sugar substitutes in place of the added sugars in flavored milk without having to identify the milk as “reduced calorie” or “lower sugar.”

The dairy industry believes this would make a lower calorie option available to children without having the stigma of a “diet” claim on the front of the container, which seems to matter to kids on the lunch line. They also claim it will help deal with the problem of overweight and obesity in kids, which now affects 30 percent of them.

All sweeteners would still be named on the ingredient list, and all would be FDA approved sweeteners that are safe for children and adults alike.

Facts About Flavored Milk Now Served in Schools

  • Contains the same 9 essential nutrients as white milk
  • Provides only 3% of the added sugars in the diets of children
  • Contains an average of 39 more calories than white milk
  • Contributes to better quality diets in school-aged children without increasing the total fat or added sugar in their diets
  • Increases milk consumption at school

Do you think the problem of childhood obesity can be helped by offering more lower calorie products on school menus?

Nutritious snacks like cheese and vegetables help kids eat less and feel more satisfied

Good-For-You Foods Make Best Snacks for Children

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can see the post here.

STUDY FINDS KIDS EAT LESS WHEN NUTRITIOUS SNACKS ARE SERVED

I’ve never met a parent or grandparent who didn’t want their little ones to eat more good for you foods. That wish stems from a lesson we all learn from our personal battles with food. Simply put, it’s a whole lot easier to start out life with good eating habits than to try to establish them later.

Amen to that.

Now we can turn to snacks as a way to help our children eat better and prevent obesity says a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. The researchers set out to discover whether different types of snacks for children would make them feel full, yet consume fewer calories. And the winner was cheese with cut-up vegetables!

Some Background on Snacking

Thirty years ago American children ate about one snack a day. Now they eat three. Along with those extra snacks they have put on some extra weight. Nearly one-third of our children are overweight or obese.

Since snacking is part of the culture our children are growing up in, trying to restrict or forbid it is fruitless (pun intended). But changing what kind of snacks we offer them is not. The goal is to select snacks that help meet nutrient requirements without exceeding caloric requirements.

Highlights from the Snack Study

201 children in grades third through sixth were in the study. The participants and their parents were told the children would be asked to watch some cartoons and answer questions about the characters at the end and be given snacks to enjoy while watching. Measurements of body mass index and information about food allergies were obtained.

The children were assigned to one of four “snack food groups” and screened in 24 separate experimental sessions with 5-11 children in each. During the sessions the children were given a bottle of water and identical plates of food. They were told they could eat as much as they wanted of the food provided, and asked how hungry they were in the beginning, middle and end of the 45 minute period.

The snack food options included a plate with either:

  • A tube of plain potato chips and a medium bag of crunchy cheese flavored snacks
  • 6 Laughing Cow cheese wedges and 6 Mini Babybel cheese rounds
  • 2 cups each of raw bite-sized broccoli, baby carrots and bell pepper strips
  • A combination of 6 cheese wedges and 6 cheese rounds and 1 cup of each vegetable

The food on each plate was weighed at the outset and any uneaten food was weighed at the end to determine exactly how much each child ate. No child finished it all. Parents completed a questionnaire designed to measure family mealtime habits and levels of engagement.

Surprising Results About Snacking and Kids

Children who consumed the cheese and vegetable snack ate 72% fewer calories than those eating chips and needed significantly fewer calories to achieve satiety compared to them.

The children eating the combo snack consumed roughly the same number of calories from vegetables as the children who only got vegetables, so they did not replace the vegetables with cheese.

Overweight and obese children and those from low-involvement families had a bigger reduction in calories compared to normal weight children and those from high-involvement families.

Key Conclusions About Snacks to Make for Kids

Offering cheese and vegetables as a snack leads to eating fewer calories than when salty, high-fat chips are served and provide good sources of fiber, calcium and protein.

Eating cheese and vegetables as a snack may encourage healthier eating habits in children, especially in those who are overweight.

A higher level of engagement between children and adults at mealtime is correlated with healthy weight in children.

Don’t you wish someone had given you some mini cheese and baby carrots when you came home from school?