Read Labels to Prevent Childhood Obesity During Back to School Season

Guess what? Reading labels can help prevent childhood obesity! Shocked? I didn’t think so. It seems completely obvious, doesn’t it?

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?

16 thoughts on “Read Labels to Prevent Childhood Obesity During Back to School Season”

  1. Reading labels is a great practice however not so many people are patient to understand what’s written and do their own research about food. Child obesity is so rampant nowadays with the advent of many fast food chains. Parents should advise kids to start learning how to watch calorie intake.

  2. Good common sense advice for adults, too! Americans are lucky to have so much fortified food. Fortified foods are banned in Denmark and I was just diagnosed with Vitamin D and B12 deficiencies. This isn’t a shocker given the lack of sunlight and the fact that I’m a strict vegetarian, but I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly 15 years and never had this problem in the States.

    On the upside, we don’t have to worry so much about things like HFCS and GMOs, but I’ll never understand what they’ve got against fortified foods. Surely it would save the national health service quite a bit.

  3. Love the tips. I have to read labels now because of my son’s food allergies, but it’s been so helpful to see what is in all the food we eat! it’s helping with nutrition in our family.

  4. Really great tips! It can be so easy to forget that all you need to know is on the label. I have been guilty of simply picking the prettiest of most unique packaging because I knew it would please my Kiddies…thank goodness I’ve learned that nutrition is so much more important than the latest gimic.

  5. Reading labels is key! Even ‘healthy’ snacks can have so much sugar an unexpected ingredients! But that is true of all foods. I think we all think we know what we are eating but if we took to time to really read and think about what we are ingesting then I think we would make much better choices!

  6. This is important information for adults to remember as well. It can be so easy just to grab what you want with out paying attention to what is in something. These are great tips for any parent.

  7. I have to honestly say I don’t read labels when shopping for snacks for my kids. I usually just stick to brand that I know and trust. Maybe it’s something I need to look into but it seems that things change so often about what’s good and what’s not good.

  8. Thanks for sharing this post as a reminder. Since I cook all of my meals, I often forget to read the labels of what ingredients I’m adding. I’ve always felt that if it’s a home cooked meal it must be healthy but that’s not true if I add ingredients that do have empty calories and such.

  9. These are great tips. It is important to read labels. If you do not understand some items listed on the label, then it is most likely not good for you.

  10. I always look at labels and try to get the healthiest options for my kids. Most importantly, I try to stay away from artificial sweeteners and flavors and coloring.

  11. Great post. I think parents who look at calorie counts often forget that even though something seems low in calories, it might actually be empty calories and packed full of sugar. As a mom, I try to buy healthy choices for my kids to take to school in their school lunches.

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