Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Dietitian says parents need to do more than Disney to improve kids' diets

Disney's announcement this week that it is cracking down on junk food advertising aimed at kids had parents and nutrition advocates all the way up to first lady Michelle Obama cheering. But experts say it will take a lot more to tackle a childhood obesity problem so severe that nearly a quarter of American teens are considered diabetic or prediabetic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. • Susan Levin is a registered dietitian and director of nutrition education at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which last week rapped the knuckles of fast-food chains for touting "healthy'' kids meals (see graphic). We asked Levin about Disney, kids' health and the one best thing you can do for your child's diet.

What do you think of Disney's new standards?

Even though Disney is making a small step in the right direction, I'm afraid it's too small. As far as I can tell, the focus is exclusively on calories, sugar and sodium, which in my opinion is a pretty generous net. Let's take breakfast cereal: They're not going to let brands be advertised with more than 130 calories, 10 grams sugar or 200 milligrams of sodium. So cereals like Lucky Charms, Count Chocula, those junk food cereals still meet those standards.

If your child is healthy, active and not overweight, what's wrong with Lucky Charms or Happy Meals?

We're talking about dietary habits that are set often for a lifetime. Eating foods with lots of saturated fat, cholesterol and sugar and foods low in fiber will still damage arteries and increase blood pressure and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. There are plenty of thin children and adults whose insides are traumatized by their diets.

So what can a parent whose kids want fast food do?

The good news is that these dietary preferences are usually imposed on kids. They are not born with a desire to eat McDonald's. I'm not saying it isn't hard. You have a whole system working against you. But you can do your part as a parent to set those preferences in place early by providing healthier foods.

If you can do just one thing to improve your family's diet, what should it be?

I have two answers. First, eat more fiber. It's in any plant — fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, beans. It's not in any animal products. Fiber-rich foods displace less nutrient-dense foods, so you're satisfied longer.

And the other thing is?

Eliminate dairy products.

Really?

Yes! Try replacing milk with soy or almond milk. Just do it for 21 days and see if things in your kids like coughing, earaches, allergies and acne don't improve dramatically. Then decide how much you want it in your diet.

What are you having for lunch today?

I'm on a budget, so I bought a loaf of pretty high fiber bread, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard, and (vegetarian) deli slices made by a company called Field Roast. I'm making a big sandwich.

What's in that 'healthy' meal?

Fast-food companies have been tweaking kid-oriented meals and marketing them as better-for-you options. Granted, they're better than triple bacon cheeseburgers with extra-large fries. But healthy? Not so fast, say dieticians with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which recently named its Five Worst "Healthy'' Fast-Food Kids Meals:

The mealThe numbersDietitian's take
Chick-fil-A Kids Grilled Nuggets Kids Meal

six nuggets, waffle potato fries, low-fat chocolate milk

• 570 calories

• 19 grams fat (4 g

saturated)

• 75 mg cholesterol

• 1,150 mg sodium

• 23 g sugars

Contains the same amount of cholesterol as a Big Mac.
McDonald's Cheeseburger

Happy Meal

cheeseburger, fries, apple slices, low-fat white milk

• 520 calories

• 20 grams fat (8 g saturated)

• 50 mg cholesterol

• 920 mg sodium

• 22 g sugars

Contains more sodium than 13 orders of McDonald's kids fries.
Sonic Kids' Jr. Burger Meal

Burger, apple slices with fat-free caramel dipping sauce, apple juice

• 550 calories

• 17 g fat (6 g saturated)

• 35 mg cholesterol

• 715 mg sodium

• 42 g sugars

Contains more sugar than two Twinkies.
Burger King Hamburger Kids Meal

Burger, fat-free milk, apple slices

• 380 calories

• 10 g fat (4 g saturated)

• 40 mg cholesterol

• 615 mg sodium

• 24 g sugar

One-tenth of the calories come from artery-clogging saturated fats
Denny's Build Your Own Jr. Grand Slam

egg whites, turkey bacon, hash browns, orange juice)

• 332 calories

• 11 g fat (4 g saturated)

• 40 mg cholesterol

• 570 mg sodium

• 30 g sugars

Contains almost 100 more milligrams of sodium than the government recommends children consume at breakfast.

Source: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine; photos from restaurant chains' websites

Dietitian says parents need to do more than Disney to improve kids' diets 06/06/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 10:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect

    Bucs

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)

    World

    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.