Part of the Bay Area News Group

How much sugar does your family eat?

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, March 21st, 2014 at 3:39 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

The nation’s reliance on fast foods and prepackaged items loaded with added sugar causes tooth decay, obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, says Dr. Robert Lustig, a childhood obesity expert at UC San Francisco.

One great way to overcome this problem is to teach America’s children how to cook healthy meals from scratch. In addition, Lustig wants to build public pressure on the food industry and government leaders to cut down on unhealthy food additives to improve everyone’s well-being.

He has teamed up with the American Heart Association and Walnut Creek chef Cindy Gershen, who also teaches at Mt. Diablo High in Concord, to get the message out to parents and the general public that major changes are needed in Americans’ diets. The World Health Organization and American Heart Association agree that added sugar should only make up 5 percent of a person’s total calories each day, which amounts to 4 teaspoons of added sugar for kids, 6 teaspoons for women or 9 teaspoons for men, he said.

“In America today, we’re at 17 percent,” Lustig said, as he watched Gershen’s students cooking healthy meals with salmon, pork loin, tofu and chicken earlier this week during a Bay Bridge Cook with Heart Challenge alongside students from Galileo High in San Francisco. “So, this is a reduction by two-thirds.”

Cutting back so drastically will be a huge challenge in this country, where 77 percent of all foods sold in grocery stores include added sugar, Lustig said. Even more alarming, he said, is the amount of sugar added to foods given to schoolchildren through breakfast and lunch programs.

About one-quarter of American kids eat school breakfasts, he said. For some, a typical breakfast could include a bowl of sugary cereal and a glass of orange juice — totaling 11 teaspoons of sugar — or 7 teaspoons more than the recommended amount for the entire day.

The reason Americans are consuming too much sugar is simple, Lustig says.

“The food industry makes money by selling crappy food,” he said. “The federal government lets them, but then the federal government has to pay for the downstream negative effects of that.”

For example, the government spends $245 billion a year on diabetes, he said. And it spends $200 billion a year fighting dementia, which he said has been associated with high-sugar diets.

Instead, Lustig says the government could make money by fixing the food so that it wouldn’t have to pay later for health problems caused by sugar. The reason this isn’t happening, Lustig alleges, is that 338 of 535 members of Congress take money from the food industry.

Until there is enough public outcry, Lustig says, nothing will change, even though the economic arguments alone justify the reductions he recommends. But more importantly, he says, children and their communities would benefit from healthier diets.

“When kids eat real food, they’re thinner, smarter and their behavior problems are better,” he said. “One-third of Americans don’t know how to cook. We can’t fix this until they do.”

Lustig and Gershen advocate bringing back home economics programs to high schools so that students can learn the nutritional guidelines and skills necessary to be healthier. Gershen’s students said they have changed their own diets and the foods eaten in their homes as a result of the education and hands-on cooking experiences they have received.

“It’s important to know what to put in your body,” said Maria Aguirre, 17, a junior at Mt. Diablo High. “At home, when you see what your mom makes, you say, ‘Mom, how much did you put in it?’ We have sugar at school. But, we also use honey.”

After the San Francisco competition ended, 16-year-old Shelby Cooper snacked on a plate of peas.

“It’s a healthier snack than a bag of chips and I’m more full,” she said. “I feel guilty if I eat chips.”

Carissa Urbina, a 17-year-old junior at Mt. Diablo High, said she enjoyed the salmon and vegetables they cooked.

“It gives me a lot of energy throughout my day as I’ve been eating this food,” she said. “And I don’t feel guilty.”

Here are some video clips from the Cook with a Heart event:

Students talk about meals they cooked:

http://youtu.be/GTlW8BJcM8o

http://youtu.be/gCwA8Qm9Y5w

 http://youtu.be/Cl6n4bRTLfs

http://youtu.be/ilZFyvMF8hw

Awards: http://youtu.be/bO4pOb_Mtxg

Comments from Lustig and others: http://youtu.be/gGVrO7esKSk

Do you think schools should teach students how to cook healthy meals?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • tmharrington

    Here is a response to this blog post that I received on behalf of the Florida Dept. of Citrus:

    “On behalf of the Florida Department of Citrus, I am writing in response to your recent On Assignment blog post that appeared on ContraCostaTimes.comentitled, “How much sugar does your family eat?” briefly referencing the sugar in orange juice as part of a typical breakfast for children. I’d like to share some additional information on the many nutrition benefits 100 percent orange juice provides that you may find helpful in the future.

    Few Americans consume the recommended amounts of fruit each day and leading health organizations agree consuming 100 percent orange juice supplies a substantial amount of nutrients and can help Americans meet those daily fruit recommendations as a complement to whole fruit. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ 100 percent juice intake guidelines include moderate intakes of 100 percent fruit juice (i.e., 4-6 ounces per day for children age 1-6 years and 8-12 ounces per day for older children). Further, 100 percent fruit juice is recognized by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the USDA MyPlate as a nutrient-rich beverage that can contribute to fruit intake and be part of a healthful diet. In fact, research suggests adults and children who consume 100 percent orange juice tend to have better overall diet quality and nutrient adequacy as compared to those who don’t consume orange juice.[1,2]

    An 8-ounce serving of 100 percent orange juice is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of potassium, folate, and thiamin, which are carried over from the fruit to the juice. One hundred percent orange juice also supplies a variety of other vitamins and minerals in an 8-ounce serving, including vitamin B6 (7% of the Daily Value), magnesium (7% of the Daily Value), and vitamin A (4% of the Daily Value), as well as the flavonoid hesperidin, a polyphenolic compound found in oranges that may have beneficial effects on human health (orange juice is the only fruit juice or commonly consumed food that contains a significant amount of hesperidin). Consuming both fresh fruit and 100 percent juice may be part of a healthy approach to obtaining needed nutrients.

    In addition, 100 percent orange juice has no added sugar; it contains only natural sugars present in the juice when squeezed from the orange. Emerging research suggests that the consumption of 100 percent orange juice with its intrinsic sugars does not result in detrimental health effects sometimes associated with the intakes of excess added sugars, such as body weight or composition changes, insulin resistance or development of characteristics of metabolic syndrome. And as with all foods and beverages that provide calories, 100 percent fruit juices should be consumed in appropriate amounts that fit with an individual’s overall diet and lifestyle.

    I would be happy to answer any additional questions you may have. In the meantime, you might be interested in visiting floridajuice.com to review several resources, like the OJ Nutrition and Health Toolkit, for the latest research and facts about the nutrition benefits of 100 percent orange juice.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Sincerely,

    Gail C. Rampersaud, MS, RDN, LDN
    Associate in Nutrition Research and Education
    University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS)
    Food Science and Human Nutrition Department
    gcr@ufl.edu

    References

    1. O’Neil CE, et al. One hundred percent orange juice consumption is associated with better diet quality, improved nutrient adequacy, and no increased risk for overweight/obesity in children.Nutrition Research. 2011;31(9):673–682.

    2. O’Neil CE, et al. 100% Orange juice consumption is associated with better diet quality, improved nutrient adequacy, decreased risk for obesity, and improved biomarkers of health in adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003-2006. Nutrition Journal. 2012;11:107 (12 December 2012).”