By Julie Stelting RN CDE
Obesity rates in Americans continue to rise. Weight gaining trends in children continue into adulthood. Even if your child has normal height and weight percentages, if they are increasing they are at risk for health problems as adults. Let’s focus on a solution before it becomes a concern.
The CDC estimates current American adults consumes approximately 2700 calories each day. I believe Americans have a misconception of how many calories are appropriate for many growing children. According to American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) the approximate calories for children can be calculated by their age. Take the children’s age in years multiplied by 100 plus 1000. For example: a five year old would need 1500 calories. (5 years X 100 =500 + 1000 calories = 1500 calories (total need per day) (Chase, 2011)
Counting calories is almost impossible for the parents of children. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends targeting carbohydrates (carbs) not calories. The ADA has completed extensive research on serving sizes for an approximate 15 gram carb’ measurement of per each servicing sizes. Simple sugars (aka carbs) like candy and soft drinks should be avoided as much as possible. Even large amounts of fruit juice and milk should be avoided. It is highly recommended that children be regularly offered cold water to drink.
The ADA’s dietary recommendations are not exact for calorie counts. I believe that is the reason it is perfect for children. Parents need to teach proper serving sizes. Americans have forgotten normal serving sizes. For example, today’s muffins could have easily been considered a two or three person serving size in the past. Remember your grandmother’s juice glasses? They were 4 ounce servings. Today a small juice serving is 8 ounces and many times much larger.
Children need to be knowledgeable on what foods are higher in calories. The National Eating Disorders Association reports by age a4 years old children can identify foods that make them fat. (Association, 2016). We need to teach children to limit their portion sizes on these foods. It is improbable that they will refuse to eat the Halloween candy. Teach them small amounts are ok.
They need to be educated on proper serving sizes. The American Diabetes Meal Plan emphasizes portion control. Teach proper portions to your children.
They also need to be encouraged to eat a wide variety of foods from a very young age. Research has shown if you introduce a wide variety of food before the age of 2, they will eat a wide variety of foods. Children just need to be encouraged to eat a balance diet.
ADA’s average 2000 calorie plan could result in over 2000 calories, depending on the amount of high sugar and high fat foods. If you are a diabetic, you should already be familiar with the ADA meal plan and portion controls. It is a good program to encourage eating a wide variety of foods. It is also an excellent program for the whole family to follow. If you are a diabetic, the risk to your children is significantly increased that they too will become a diabetic. The ADA 2000 calorie meal plan is appropriate for children 9-19 years old.
The CDC predicts that by 2020, 3 out of 5 Americans will be diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes. It behooves us all to become knowledgeable concerning ADA’s recommended serving sizes. Being an RN and certified diabetes educator, I believe following a well-rounded diet along with living a balanced life will result in improved health for everyone. I advocate the American Diabetes Association exchange program for diet improvements particularly in teens.
Association, N. E. (2016). Get the Fact on Eating Disorders. Retrieved from National Eating Disorders Association: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders
Chase, H. P. (2011). Understanding Diabetes, A handbook for people who are living with diabetes. Devner CO: Paros Press.
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