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Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Junk Food, Junk Calories: What Kids Are Eating

A new study found that children 2-18 get 40% of their daily intake from fat and sugar — putting them at risk for obesity and other diet-related illness.

Junk Food

Photo: cthoyes (flickr)

The main culprits of empty calories are: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza and whole milk.

Nearly half of kids’ energy comes from empty calories.

A new study found that children 2-18 are getting 40% of their daily intake from solid fats and added sugars — calories that put them at risk for obesity and other diet-related illness.

A study published this month in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that children 2-18 are getting 40% of their calories from solid fats and added sugars.

To visualize this, it’s the same as your kids eating about 20 packets of sugar and a half a stick of butter every day. That’s 365 calories from added sugar and 433 calories from solid fat.

A recent ad created by the NYC health department paints an unpleasant picture of the amount of sugar in a 20-oz soda. Keep in mind — this is less sugar than the average child is consuming each day.

The Main Culprits

The main culprits of empty calories were the following six foods: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza and whole milk.

The daily calorie allowance for all ages recommended by the American Dietetic Association is 8-20% — far below the actual 40% the study authors found. This means that kids are getting 2-5 times the amount of calories they should from junk food rather than nutritional alternatives.

High levels of sugar and fat consumption have been linked to a risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

The study data came from the years 2003-2006, and was taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey .

Leave A Comment:

What do you serve your kids as a healthy snack?

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Sarah Kaiser

Sarah Kaiser is a student-turned-townie living in Bloomington, Indiana. A social media specialist at Solution Tree, she spends her days tweeting and her nights foraging at the local summer market for new tastes and flavors. And occasionally rocking out on the ukulele.

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  • Kristin_theschellcafe

    Sarah, Thank you so much for this article. Eliminating processed 'empty calories' is a great first step. As a mother of four, I'll be anxious to see what your readers are offering as healthy snacks. You can read about our family's transition to wholesome & real foods at The Schell Cafe where I share lots of yummy, kid approved recipes.

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