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April 30, 2013

Tips for reducing calories in kids' diets

A study recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that cutting an average of 64 calories per day in children’s diets could reduce obesity rates. 

Since I often teach adults that even 100 calories per day can have a significant impact over time, cutting 64 calories seems reasonable for a smaller person. Realistically, 64 calories seems so harmless when you consider how small an amount of food that is, and it is easy to see how these extra calories are sneaking in. 

I would never advise restricting the amount of food a young child or toddler can eat. Toddlers, especially, can vary dramatically in the amount of food they choose to eat day to day. I also think young children should be allowed to eat some treats. To never eat treats is unrealistic. They will have complete control over their food choices someday, so it is a good idea to demonstrate moderation while they are young. However, it is very important to offer nutritious choices most of the time. 

A couple of the greater-caloric food choices can easily add up to too many calories. 

For example, ¾ of a cup of mac and cheese is about 250 calories, but a ½ cup of mac and cheese with four quartered cherry tomatoes or 10 green beans (fresh, frozen or canned without salt added) has about 180 calories. The difference is 70 calories.

Two chocolate sandwich cookies have about 95 calories. One cup of strawberries or a half cup of unsweetened applesauce has about 50 calories each. The difference is 45 calories.

Vegetables and fruits are essential to achieving a balance for young eaters. Each meal or snack should include fruits and vegetables. They regularly contain less calories than the foods taking their place on the plate. These foods have more fiber and are more filling, especially when paired with protein. 

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