Taking a second look in kids’ lunch boxes

Sabin, Davis, Hetrick, Anderegg, Macalady, Walker, Darling and Katers

Let’s see: pack the school lunch box, check; peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat, check; one cup apple sauce, check; fruit punch, healthy lunch, check. 0ops, not so fast. Nutritionists and physicians would like families to take a closer look.

That lunch we just sent off with our little darlings may have a whopping 75 grams of sugar. The American Heart Association suggests children have about 17 grams of sugar a day. One rounded teaspoon of sugar or a sugar cube has about 5 grams of sugar. If we look at our lunch again, we just packed 15 sugar cubes in our children’s noon meal and sent them merrily on their way. What???

Dr. Jim Surrell, colorectal surgeon — whose special interest and expertise in nutrition and weight loss programs led him to write his book “SOS Diet Stop Only Sugar” — helped provide information for this column.

Sugar Detectives

With one of every three children over weight and on their way to type 2 diabetes, what can we feed children that they will eat and still be low in sugar? Both Dr. Surrell and experts with the American Heart Association have excellent suggestions. First, start early not giving babies and toddlers food with sugar added. Read the labels. There are many names for sugar. If corn syrup, sweetener, dextrose, fructose, honey or molasses, just to name a few, are near the top of the ingredient list, look for alternative foods.

The more processed the food, the more sugar. One packet of flavored oatmeal has 13 grams of sugar. One cup of regular oatmeal with unsweetened almond milk warmed in the microwave with a few berries or natural applesauce with no sugar added has much less sugar. Older children can be trained to be sugar detectives by reading ingredient labels and adding up the sugar grams.

ABC Guide

Dr. Surrell has a simple ABC guide in his SOS book: A–Avoid excess sugar; B–Become a label reading detective; C–Choose low sugar and high fiber.

Let’s go back to that school lunch. What can we do? Learn to substitute. Pack peanut butter with no added sugar as a dip for a sliced and cored medium apple (14 grams of sugar) tied with a rubber band around it.

Dr. Surrell’s other high protein, low sugar suggestions include: hardboiled egg, cottage cheese, Swiss, cheddar, Colby or string cheese, handful of dry roasted peanuts, cocoa or plain roasted almonds, cashews, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, whole grain crackers, red or green vegetables like crunchy snap pea pods, and water. For safety include an ice box to keep food cold. If teachers ask for snacks, some of these might be sent to school.

For more healthy suggestions see Dr. Surrell’s SOS book, grandparentsteachtoo.blogspot.com,wnmufm.org/Learning Through the Seasons live and pod casts.