Are We Overwhelming Our Kids’ with Sugar & Processed Foods?

January 24, 2015
Categories: ADHD, Kids, Nutrition, Sugar

Thank you to Coronado SAFE for inviting me to speak at your 3rd Annual Parenting Conference!

Recently someone whose child has been dealing with a bunch of health issues asked me “Why does kids’ health have to be so complicated nowadays?”  He has a point:

  • 1 in 10 kids currently has fatty liver disease (40% of obese kids).
  • Adult onset diabetes is now called Type 2 Diabetes, because it is increasingly affecting kids.
  • 1 out of every 2 Latina or African American girls is expected to develop diabetes in their lifetime.
  • 1 in every 3 kids has one of the 4 “A”s (asthma, autism, allergies, ADHD).
  • Thirty percent of kids today are overweight or obese.
  • We are seeing more autoimmunity, metabolic issues, skin conditions, digestion issues, hormone imbalances, anxiety, depression and other health issues in today’s youth.

The statistics are so grim that  experts worry that in a few decades there may not be enough healthy individuals to take care of the sick individuals.  In fact, this may be the first generation of kids which may not outlive their parents.

I think the question we all have to ask is –  What’s food got to do with it? 

Take a walk down the aisle of your average grocery store, and you will see hundreds and thousands of brightly colored and flavor-blasted sodas, chips, cookies, cereals, bars, yogurts, candies, energy and sports drinks, mac n cheese cups, frozen pizzas and dinners, refrigerator doughs, ice creams, and a wide variety of foods specifically designed and marketed towards….our kids.

Seventy four percent of these foods contain added sugars.  And far too many of these foods contain artificial colors, flavorings, flavor enhancers, preservatives, monosodium glutamate, trans fats, GMOs, and other ingredients that we don’t recognize or know what they are there for.

The question remains – is this even food?  Or is it a science experiment?  And do we want our kids to be lab rats in a giant experiment?

I know all too well how tempting all this junk food can be for a kid.


Sara eating ice cream, age 12Can you guess who that girl is in this photo?

Yep – that was me. I think I was around 12 years old then. Some of my favorite foods were hot dogs and ice cream.

If you had told that girl that she would one day write a book, speak in front of large audiences, and go on TV regularly – all to share her knowledge about nutrition and health – she would have laughed herself silly. You see, when I was that age, I didn’t realize that what I ate affected everything – from my energy, to my moods, brain function, digestion, immune system, and my weight.  All I cared about was how food tasted.  And I frequently reached for things like hot dogs, candy, sodas, cookies, cakes, and chips.

Sure, they might taste good – but in the long term all that junk food can cause tremendous mental and physical pain.

But I am one of the lucky ones – because the majority of overweight children grow up to become overweight/obese adults.

The thing is – it doesn’t have to be this way.


I am living proof.

So what can we do to stop this trajectory?  The answer is surprisingly simple:

Eat Real Food. 

Although it may be simple, it might not be so easy.

Because if you are eating packaged and processed foods, you are getting a lot more sugar, chemicals and GMOs in your diet than you realize.

Here are 5 Tips to Help you Improve Your Family’s Diet: 

1. Cut way back on added sugar – read Are Our Kids Eating Toxic Amounts of Sugar? for more info.

2. Avoid anything with partially hydrogenated oils (this means there are trans fats).

3. Get the artificial colors out.  If it has a color and a number after it, it is an artificial color.  Artificial colors have been found to affect attention and behavior in some kids.  In fact, in the United Kingdom – if a food has an artificial color, it has to have a label on it that says:

‘may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’

So instead of putting on that label, most manufacturers will use natural colorings instead.  For example, if you buy Kraft mac n cheese in the UK, it is made with natural colorings, while the blue box in the US contains artificial colors.  There are many other examples of this kind of double standard.

4. Avoid chemicals in foods like mono-sodium glutamate (MSG), flavor enhancers, and preservatives.    If you can’t pronounce it, or don’t know what it is – it probably is a chemical.

5. Eat more plant-based foods – especially vegetables.  Studies show that eating more plant-based foods can lower your risk of disease and prolong your life.  Shoot for between 7 and 9 servings of plant based foods every day.  Or try to fill up half your plate at least twice daily.


Want to learn more about nutrition and health?

Below are some additional resources:

Videos/Ted Talks:







Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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