Short and (not too) sweet

I have spoken before about the problem of increasing obesity rates among children and adolescents, about the role of increased caloric intake and even the insidious role that corporate financing can play in influencing the discussion.

I want to again mention the concept of “empty calories”: the emptiest of those calories are fluid calories.  That’s why we warn against the disadvantages of soda and sport drinks as I’ve discussed previously.  Even fruit juice is an unhelpful source of “empty calories.” If you want fruit nutrition, better to consume the fruit which contains the fiber than just the juice with only the sugar.

Alcohol, of course, is loaded with calories.  When I counsel your teens about the dangers of alcohol I endeavor to emphasize that factor: it’ll make you gain weight, I tell them.  It’s far more effective to talk to young people in terms that are meaningful to their lives.  So chronic alchoholism and cirrhosis are simply irrelevant to a 16 year old.  But there’s a reason why they refer to a “beer belly” or “beer gut.”  I tell them that regular alchohol consumption will likely make them heavier and less competitive in their athletics and that the girls will find themselves in bigger jeans and bathing suit sizes.  That’s what registers.

So the best drinks are skim or low fat milk and water or club soda with lemon, lime, or other fruit added.  Maybe a glass of fruit juice for breakfast.

As to artificially sweetened soft drinks?  Not so good.  Studies now indicate that they likely increase the risk of diabetes by changing the “microbiota”–intestinal bacteria.  For you intrepid science geeks, check out the full article here.

One more tidbit: an excellent and simple method to assess your and your child’s risk of cardiovascular disease is waist/hip ratio.  Measure your waistline and divide by hip circumference.  Males should be no more than 0.9, females 0.8.

Send along questions or comments and thanks for following.

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