junk food kids cupcakesJunk Food is a growing health concern. A recent study revealed that nearly half of kids’ diets are empty calories – a significant factor in childhood obesity. If there were ever an incentive to cut back on youngsters’ consumption of junk food (cakes, cookies, pizzas and sodas, chips, etc.) nutrition authorities say a new study underlines just how unhealthy young people’s diets actually are.

Analysts from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. scrutinized data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and determined that nearly 40 percent of calories polished off by children ages 2 to 18 were empty calories, the unhealthiest form of calories.

Half of “Junk Food” calories came from only six foods:
Soda
Sugary fruit drinks
Grain desserts, such as cake, cookies and donuts
Dairy desserts such as ice cream
Pizza
Whole milk, which is much fater than skim. Consumption of empty calories far surpassed the corresponding voluntary calorie allowance for all sex‚Äďage categories. The numbers are staggering and distressing.

While the findings don’t shock many nutrition experts, they say the causes why kids consume so many empty calories are diverse. The press for healthier foods over the past years has helped a little, but they say there are yet many hurdles to changing eating habits for the better – including a deficiency of physical activity, parental and peer sway, and marketing by the food trade.

Kids judge that food tastes better from cartooned packages, and it’s difficult to foresee a solution unless we have significant limits on advertising of foods that sabotage the health and reduce the longevity of today’s kids. But the story is complicated. Many kids, and their parents, just don’t know what they should to be eating.

Nutrition guidance needs to start in prenatal classes and carry on through the entire education system. A whopping number of college students don’t have a clue as to the nutritional value of many foods or even how much of each food group they require.

The school curriculum is obliged to include conscientious teaching of the advantages of real food and what foods to shun. It is vital that nutrition be addressed completely during the elementary school years; high school is too late because the harm has been done by then.

The Senate has recently passed a bill that provides $4.5 billion to help correct the nutritional calibre of school lunches and the fare in vending machines. The bill has however not passed the House of Representatives as of this post.

Experts also maintain that children’s poor diets are a consequence of their home environment. Eating is acquired behavior. Kids eat whatever their parents eat. If busy parents toss a frozen pizza into the microwave, that’s a poor meal that sends a poor message. We also need improved food labeling, including fruits and vegetables, simplification of serving sizes, and food labeling with caloric totals.

One nutritionist observed that while the food trade does serve up a less-than-healthy dose of junk food, restaurants are upgrading their menus, and it’s the consumers who must make the right choices. Customers should persist in demanding healthier options. Change won’t happen in these settings unless customers financially spur for reform.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, an alliance that represents 300 food, beverage and consumer product businesses, has said that between 2002 and 2009, food and beverage concerns have introduced thousands of healthier options.

Food and beverage companies are acknowledging consumer needs by offering thousands of healthier product choices that render it easier for shoppers to put together a healthy diet for themselves and their families. The organization also said more than 90 percent of its companies actively support health lifestyles.

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