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How Can We Cut 64 Calories a Day From Kids' Diets?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Many things have changed since 1971. Back then, there were no cell phones, personal computers, or the internet. There was also no satellite TV, music came from 45 records or albums, and you couldn't find online dining guides to make wise choices for the rare occasion when you would eat away from home. What has also changed is the rate of obesity in young people.
Researchers have recently analyzed historical height and weight data from 1971 to 2008 for U.S. children between the ages of two and 19. Evaluating the trends during that time led researchers to project an increase in childhood obesity to 21 percent by the year 2020 compared to today's rate of almost 17 percent. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wants to see the obesity rate decline to 14.6 percent instead.
Unfortunately, since so many Americans are overweight, many parents have a hard time taking a good look at their children's weight. A new study estimates children need to begin creating a 64 calorie energy gap (aka calories in vs. calories out) each day through diet and/or exercise to reach the 2020 childhood obesity goals. Here are some substitution ideas to cut these calories through diet.

  • Switch from whole milk to skim once children are over the age of two and save 60 calories per cup.

  • Swap out the cup of 100% orange juice for a fresh orange and save 50-60 calories.

  • Serve a half cup of 100% orange juice instead of a full cup and save 55 calories.

  • Pass on the potato chips (one ounce serving) for a snack and offer unbuttered popcorn instead and save 60 calories.

  • Skip the mayonnaise when ordering a hamburger in favor of mustard only and save 54 calories.

  • Select raspberry vinaigrette (two ounces) instead of ranch salad dressing and save 68 calories.

  • For a sweet treat, select a half-cup serving of low-fat frozen yogurt instead of regular ice cream and save 60 calories.

  • Choose two ounces of mozzarella cheese as a snack or on a sandwich instead of Swiss cheese and save 72 calories.

  • Enjoy two ounces of oven-baked fries instead of the fast food option and save 88 calories.

  • Use a napkin to blot the grease from the cheese pizza and soak up about a teaspoon of fat and save 40 calories for two slices of pizza.

  • Downsize your tortilla wrap from a 10-inch size to an eight-inch size and save 50 calories.

  • Skip the cone when enjoying a small ice cream treat and save 60 calories.

  • Select a two ounce bag of baked potato chips instead of the regular option and save 70 calories per bag.

  • Use two tablespoons of lite syrup instead of regular syrup for waffles or pancakes and save 60 calories.

  • For the next chocolate fix, enjoy a cup of chocolate milk instead of a chocolate candy bar and save 65 calories.

  • If they must have soda, select an eight ounce mini can over the traditional 12 ounce option and save 50 calories.
You can find additional tips and ideas in these articles.

Smart Substitutions Calorie Chart
Make Smart Substitutions
50 Easy Ways to Cut 100 Calories
20 Easy Ways to Cut Calories Slideshow
How Many Calories Are You Drinking

Do you think parents or youth should be in charge of making changes to eating habits?

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These are some really good tips specially for my 4yr obese daughter. She is also using Roca Labs Formula which is a diet supplement. The good thing about this diet supplement is that it can be taken by children. It is all natural so she basically lose weight safely and naturally.
I appreciated the article, hadn't thought about how simple substitutions could make a 60 calorie difference. For some people, kids included, that could be the empowerment they need to get started. For all the criticizers, remember that many kids aren't getting homemade meals or being taught to eat a well rounded, balanced diet. Let's be supportive of getting the information out there to help slow and turn the trend toward obesity around. Report
Everything in moderation. The tips given are okay I guess if those are the only foods a child is being given or special occassions like birthdays, but it would be better to serve healthier choices to start with. Instead of the usual video games go for those that require physical activity. Limit tv to less than an hour or two at most and designate certain days as tv free. Get them out to the park, riding bikes, jumping rope, swimming, etc. and take them on nature hikes and walks. Take them to a hands on science museum. Only give them quarters for the game that requires some fancy footwork dancing or making a tune. Even whack a mole is better than most sedentary video games. Overall "dieting" isn't something for kids but do cut down on the excessive use of sugary drinks, treats, fast food, sat and trans fats, etc. and use reasonable portion sizes. Don't insist on cleaning the plate. Better to give smaller servings with a refill if requested to cut down on food waste than to make them clean the plate to avoid throwing food out. Sit down to the table without the tv for the meal as a family as much as possible. Take them shopping to help pick out fruits and veggies or get them gardening to grow their own. Report
I think parents should teach their kids about eating healthy and being active though exercise and other activities not about lowering calories. Report
I realised my daughter used to eat mindlessly when TV was on. so instead of giving her dose on healthy eating I implemented a rule no TV while watching TV. There has been a dramatic decrease in the food consumed. I am also making a lot of food at home. Homemade pizzas lot lighter than a Dominoes one. I think its more about inculcating healthy habits, Report
Obviously we all know kids need to get out and play more, and while this article mentioned that, the authors point was to give us parents ideas on how to cut some calories without making our children feel deprived. I think they succeeded in that and I very much appreciated the article!! Report
I totally agree with the exercise. There is no reason why kids should have to give up treats or anything else. Parents need to use common sense instead. Portion size is a biggie nd the fact that kids don't get good home cooked meals. Everything is out of a box. I have 3 boys that have never had weight issues and I didn't deny them anything. I just used common sense for them. Report
my thoughts would be to kick them outside to play instead of letting them sit in front of the TV all day or on the computer all day...

I'd say ditto to those who are asking why the entire focus was on diet ways to reduce calories. In fact, some of these "tricks" were disturbing in the sense of how heavily they reinforce the diet mentality even when they were correctly adjusting the portion size. (Serving a half cup of juice instead of a full cup, for example, shouldn't be to "cut calories" - it should be because of how much is a serving of juice.)

I also had to laugh at the image. Who wants to try guessing how much cereal and milk that bowl in the picture holds? Forget switching to skim milk and instead get bowls that hold a single serving of cereal and 1/2 c. milk. Report
I don't agree with this article at all. It's dangerous to start cutting calories for kids. How about just giving them real food? I feel sorry for that poor child in the photo with her bowl full of pink and orange muck. Let's avoid screwing our kids up, give them lots of fresh fruits & veggies, home-cooked meals, wholegrains, whole milk, and plenty of opportunities to move. How about making a hearty home-made stew instead of worrying about blotting grease off a disgusting pizza? Report
What really upsets me is that it's not just about the food. Yes, thats a part of it. But the lack of activity is just as bad. I saw a TV commercial encouraging parents to take their kids outside and play. WHY SHOULD WE NEED A TV COMMERCIAL TO TELL US TO DO THAT? Parents need to get off their behind's and exercise with their kids and they both reap the benefits of exercise, and having fun, but also spending quality time together. Report
I am thinking that if someone tried to substitute mustard for mayo I would retch. I can take a little but not much! Of course, the major thing is less of a calorie full ingredient! Less sugar, less fat. Plus encourage active play rather than just video games. Report
The first lines of this article are about the move toward more sedentary activities, yet offer only food choice changes to create the 64-calorie deficit recommended rather than ACTIVITY or PLAY choices to create energy deficits.

When I have a young child who is very active an hour and half to two hours a day, rarely sits still and in the 20% percentile on weight; I don't worry so much about creating deficits, so much as making sure she is eating enough to meet her energy and growth needs. Parents taking their children to regular well-child visits get information about their child's weight and height; so not looking at their childrens' weights has to be at least partly the medical system's fault for not bringing it to their attention. Report
Beware of popcorn for smaller kids. The hulls can be a major choking hazard! Follow your pediatrician's advice!

Also, I agree that we need to be creating more active kids - video games & endless TV channels helped to make me overweight, they are sure to do the same for my daughter without my intervention. The weeknights are tough, but we be sure our 18 month old is getting outdoors away from the TV on the weekends. We also play chase indoors quite a bit! Report
Great point ANCHEN2, how about getting kids to turn off the TVs and video games and go for a walk or bike ride? I think the two really need to work hand-in-hand. Report
Okay, making healthier choices about food is important, but how about using exercise to create that 64-calorie deficit? Are we just trying to adjust statistics here, or are we trying to teach children the kinds of habits that will serve them throughout their long, healthy lives? Report
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