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Food to Reduce- key message of new food guidelines- fun ideas for families

Posted on Feb 07, 2011 by Maggie LaBarbera

Let's take a look at the final key message that the USDA wants families to focus on:

Key Message #3:  Foods to Reduce

  • 'Lower your sodium (salt) intake..  Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals and choose the foods with the lower number  -
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks
  • Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • Lower your dietary cholesteral intake
  • Avoid foods with trans fats
  • Limit  foods with added sugar

One of the reasons children are not getting the recommended nutrients is because they are filling up with foods that are low in healthy nutrients and high in

  • saturated fats (not good for the heart and can promote obesity from too many unnecessary calories)
  • trans fats (not good for the heart)
  • sodium that comes from salt ( although the body needs some sodium, our body actually needs very little.  Too much sodium can increase blood pressure - even in children - and that puts a strain on the heart and the kidneys)
  • sugar - puts a strain on our pancreas and promote obesity from too many unnecessary calories
How this message is important to your child:

You may be surprised to know that heart disease can begin during childhood if a child is consistently taking in a diet high in calories, trans fat, unsaturated fats and sodium.

Too much sugar and calories can predispose an otherwise healthy child to diabetes.  We are seeing a growing number of diabetic children, many of them overweight.

We often think that children are immune from heart disease and high blood pressure because we tend to hear these conditions associated with adulthood.  But that is changing because now we have kids who have been obese for all their childhood and taking in a very poor diet with less nutrients.  All this is leading to early heart disease, diabetes and other conditions in children and young adults.

But all this can be prevented by teaching children to make healthy choices and that starts at home.


  • Use food labels to help guide you.  All the information is right there, we just have to take a moment and read it the label
  • Compare foods you want to buy for your family and choose the food item that is lower in sodium, unsaturated fats and sugar
  • Eat more fresh foods, they are not loaded with extra sugar and fat that your child's body does not need
  • Cook at home with the kids.  It is the best way to control how much fat, salt and sugar is added to your foods.
  • When cooking start by adding a little less sugar and salt.  Overtime, you will get use to the taste of the food without the extra salt and sugar.  You will be surprised how great foods can taste with very little or no salt and sugar.
  • When eating at restaurants, ask that salt not be added to your foods or order lower sodium options, if available.
  • When eating out, ask for grilled or baked rather than fried foods
  • Drink more water and teach kids to drink more water.  The body is made up of mostly water >70%.  It needs water to be healthy and function efficiently.
  • Don't stock your home with sugary drinks like soda, fruit juices and sports drinks.  It helps minimize the temptation.
  • Sweeten your water with natural fruits.  Just take a few slices and put it in a pitcher of water and your water will have a natural flavor.
This may seem a bit overwhelming.  Start with one goal, like drinking more water or reading food labels on canned goods.  Start with one or two goals at most and then talk with your child as a family about your goal and why this is important.

If you start making one or two changes in habits at a time it will make it easier to stick to it.  Overtime, that new "challenge or goal"  will actually become a new habit!

then you can pick a new one.

It is surprising but little changes in habits do make a big difference in overall health for you, your family and most importantly, your child.

You may be interested in these related materials from our website:

Fun food Label Activity Page – teaching kids about food labels

Food Label Game

Food label quiz for adults

Using Food Labels to Make Healthy Food Choices

Printable – Food Labels Informational Sheet (Spanish version)

Nutrient Claims Article and Chart

Printable Handy Nutrient Claims Reference Chart (Spanish version)

Setting Healthy Goals As A Family Article

Eating Healthy Tips Article

Keeping Your Child’s Heart Healthy Article

Sugar In Kids' Fruit Juices Articles





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