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Health & Parenting

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Kids Love It: Sweet Milk Works Like Magic

Sugary Dairy Products and Cereal Add Nutrients to Diet
WebMD Health News

Jan. 15, 2004 -- If kids won't drink milk, try the new sweetened dairy products.

Despite the extra sugar, children who pour sweetened milk on their Cap'n Crunch have an overall better diet than other kids. They also get less total sugar in their diets, a new study shows.

Kids from ages 6 to 17 eat huge amounts of sugary foods like soft drinks, fruity drinks, sugars and sweets, sweetened cereals, sweetened dairy products, and sweetened grains, as previous studies have shown.

As children grow into adolescence, their intake of milk and fruit juice decreases -- whereas soft drink intake more than triples, writes lead researcher Carol D. Frary, MS, RD, with the University of Vermont in Burlington.

Up to 20% of a teen's or adolescent's diet is sugar-laden, she says.

With all this sugar, kids are also getting fewer essential nutrients because they're getting fewer vegetables, fruits, dairy products, and grains, Frary writes.

The long-term repercussions are huge: "Children and adolescents with poor diet quality may be at risk for a multitude of health problems such as obesity, heart disease, and osteoporosis, as well as other chronic diseases that occur later in life," she writes.

An even more pressing concern is the increase in overweight and obese kids, she says.

This is the first study to look at a child's overall diet and how it relates to a child's intake of presweetened drinks and foods, writes Frary.

Her nationwide study, published in the January issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, involved 3,038 children and adolescents between ages 6 and 17. All completed surveys asking about their eating habits.

Researchers found that kids who got sweetened dairy products got more calcium in their diets. Those who also ate presweetened cereals got sufficient calcium, folate, and iron in their diets -- more so than kids who existed on sodas or sugary juice drinks, sugary candy, and other sugary snacks.

None of the kids got enough dairy, but those who got sweetened dairy and presweetened cereals had the highest number of dairy servings per day. None of the kids ate enough fruits and vegetables.

The lesson: Buy sweetened dairy products and cereals for your kids, to add essential nutrients. Sugar works like magic.

SOURCE: Frary, C. Journal of Adolescent Health, January 2004; vol 34: pp 56-63.

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