Despite the plethora of information regarding the importance of healthy foods for children, kids are still getting their hands on it.

“Parents are the ones who go to the store, get the food and bring it into the home,” said Dietitian with the New Jersey Dietetic Association Dr. Felicia Stoler. “So, it’s the parents who need to be more mindful of the foods they’re selecting.”

New government data show that children are downing an average of 322 calories a day from added sugars, about 16 percent of their daily calories. Boys consume 362 calories a day from them, while girls take in 282 calories from added sugar. Fifty-nine percent of those added-sugar calories come from foods and 41 percent from beverages. Sixty-five percent of calories from added sugars are consumed at home. Added sugars include table sugar, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, molasses along with processed foods like cookies, cakes, candy and muffins.

“When you’re heading to the grocery store, it’s important to look for whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products to make sure children are getting all of the nutrients they need,” said Stoler. “Kids don’t need to eat cakes and cookies every day. They just don’t. They’re not nutrient dense foods. They’re calorie dense.”

That’s not to say that children should never have junk food. “Everything in moderation. If you have to have junk food in the house, I recommend the 100 calorie packs. If kids want to have one once a day, they can take one thing. It gives the children choice, but it also lets them understand that they’re not getting a lot of it,” said Stoler. “Exercise is also key. It’s important for children to move the large muscles in their bodies for up to an hour a day.”

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