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Substitutions Cut Calories, Kids Oblivious

The average American child consumes 15 to 30% more calories than needed for healthy growth — no wonder obesity has become the most prevalent health problem facing U.S.children.Fortunately, a new study suggests small substitutions in recipe ingredients and meal components can significantly cut children’s caloric intake and improve their health — without their even noticing it!

Penn State researchers (the same smart bunch that brought the world Volumetrics) provided breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks to 26 children, twice a week for two weeks.On some of those days, the caloric content of the meals were reduced with simple changes, such as adding pureed vegetables to pasta dishes, quadrupling the amount of strawberries in a yogurt parfait, serving 1% milk instead of whole milk, or substituting fruit in juice vs.syrup.The result? On “swap” days, kids took in about 200 fewer calories, even though they were eating roughly the same amount of food by weight.

These findings helped to confirm a previous study by the same authors in which kids served regular and low-fat versions of macaroni and cheese did not notice any difference in taste — even though the healthier version had 70 fewer calories and loads less saturated fat.Kids, like adults, tend to eat the same weight in food every day: Depending on how you fill up that dietary scale (think fruit and vegetables vs.junk food and candy), that can either add up to lots of calories and paltry nutrition, or relatively fewer calories, and many important nutrients.

That’s the premise of Volumetrics: a diet that lets people eat their fill of high-fiber, high-nutrition, low-calorie foods like fruits and vegetables.Dieters “consume hundreds of fewer calories per day…yet eat a greater amount of food,” observed Consumer Reports, which ranked Volumetrics as the best, healthiest, and most effective diet.

Of course, protecting children from obesity is just one of parents’ concerns when it comes to their kids’ diets — avoiding nutrient deficiencies is another.Scientists are increasingly recognizing that there may be a link between the two.You can address both, by serving your children more fruit and vegetables.

For serving ideas and other helpful tips to improve your child’s diet, download our Healthy Kids Brochure.

Published March 1, 2008

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