Yet it took a team of scientists from two separate universities to validate what we already knew. Sarcasm aside, reading labels really is a great way to help prevent childhood obesity, especially during the back to school season. Between fast-paced breakfasts, packed lunches and after school snacks, now is a great time to really take inventory of what’s going into your child’s belly.
Study says reading labels helps prevent childhood obesity
Scientists from Universities of Tennessee, Arkansas (USA), the Norwegian Institute for Agricultural Finance Research and the University of Santiago de Compostela all got together and compiled data for the study. They found that women who read labels weighed nearly nine pounds (about 4 Kg) less than those who didn’t read labels. Considering that women primarily make the food choices in families, it’s no stretch to imagine that reading labels can also help prevent childhood obesity.
Using labels to choose good back to school foods
So you know that reading labels helps prevent childhood obesity, but what do you do with this information? Most people just look at the calories and fat in foods. That’s a good start, but it’s not all you should be looking at. Besides, if you don’t know how many calories your child should eat in a day, counting them really doesn’t do much good!
We’re not going to give you hard numbers on daily recommended calorie intake because there are too many factors to consider. This is something that you should really discuss with your pediatrician. Guidelines average between 1600-2000 calories for moderately active school age children. Remember, though, those are just guidelines! Now take a look at these tips to use those labels to prevent childhood obesity.
- Consider quality over quantity. Many people make their kids back to school food choices based on the amount of calories per serving. They think “oh, this pouch of fruit snacks has only 80 calories per serving, it’s just perfect!” The thing is, if it’s a very small pouch, your child may still be hungry five minutes later. That means more calories. Instead, choose healthy school snacks that are both low in calories and filling at the same time. Air-popped popcorn, real fruit or peanut butter on celery sticks are all filling options.
- A little fat is necessary. One big mistake that you can make is trying to cut out all fat from your child’s diet. Kids need fat. Adults need it too! A little fat in the diet isn’t going to cause childhood obesity. Go for the right kinds of fat, though. Look for foods that are low in saturated and trans fats.
- Move beyond calories and fat. Slide those eyes further down the label and you’ll find a plethora of fantastic information to help you make better back to school food choices! Look at the protein content first. According to the CDC, kids ages 4-8 need about 19 grams per day, while kids 9-13 need 34! Teenagers need even more- 46 grams of protein each day. While your family dinner may be chock full of protein, you still want to make sure the other meals and snacks throughout the day have a good amount. Protein is the main building block for just about everything in our bodies!
- Don’t forget those vitamins! When you’re choosing your child’s foods for the day, try to combine foods in a way that meets all the daily requirements for vitamins and minerals. Rather than look at each label individually throughout the day, plan your child’s back to school eating regimen by sitting down and making a list of all the combinations that would provide the most adequate nutrition.
While we don’t need a study to tell us that reading labels can help prevent childhood obesity, it’s still a good reminder to be a little more diligent in what we put into our children. Usually, the best foods don’t come with labels! Whenever possible, opt for whole fresh fruits and vegetables over canned or frozen ones. It’s just as easy to toss an apple in your child’s lunch box as it is to toss in an apple sauce container!
Do you have any tips on using labels to help prevent childhood obesity, especially during the back to school season?