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The Macaroni Wars: How to Keep Our Kids From Getting Fat

When I was in grade school, I had the most amazing brown-bag lunches. A sandwich, chips, fruit, sure. But what made lunch so memorable were the sweet treats my mom surprised us with: Hostess cupcakes and pies, Twinkies, Little Miss Debbie desserts, Zingers. Those were the good ol’ days, the unenlightened era before we learned how truly dangerous sugar is for children.

And may those beautiful, sweet memories rest in peace. (I know they’re already resting on my hips!)

Today, according to Reuters, “children in the U.S. are consuming more than 10 pounds of sugar annually if they eat a typical morning bowl of cereal,” which, of course, leads to obesity and an apocalypse of other health issues. It is reported that a single serving of cereal can contain nearly as much sugar as three Chips Ahoy! Cookies and more than two Keebler Fudge Stripe cookies—yikes!

The worst cereal children could possibly eat? Kellogg Co.’s Honey Smacks, which weighs in at a whopping 56 percent sugar. (Yeah, but they taste so good, right?)

For Native Americans—especially our children—eating all the wrong foods, including sugar, is taking its toll on us. A recent study released by First Nations Development Institute reports that American Indians and Alaska Natives have a three times higher death rate due to diabetes compared with the general U.S. population. And even worse news for our little ones, 31.2 percent of native 4-year-olds are currently obese—a rate higher than any other racial or ethnic group.

Courtesy Armitage

Lynn Armitage

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First off, moms and dads, you can make a big difference in changing this frightening tide. Unless your children do the grocery shopping, they eat whatever it is that you bring into the house – or in my case, what my mom stuffed in my lunch bag. So for starters, stop hauling so much sugar into your home.

Secondly, education and awareness can go a long way. It already is. Future of Eating, a consumer research company, predicts that fresh food consumption among Generation Z (children born between 1990 and 1999) will increase 11 percent in the next five years.

Did you hear that? Our children, those smart cookies, are rejecting all this sugar and processed food that we’re filling our grocery carts with and demanding REAL food, made at home with REAL ingredients.
It looks like that farm-to-fork craze that took our dinner tables by storm is finally paying off.

I know mealtimes have changed drastically around my home, with my Generation Z daughter leading the charge. Since January, we’ve been eating mostly fruits and vegetables, lean meats, scarcely any carbs and we’ve replaced sugar with Stevia. Surprisingly, for this mom who was practically nursed on Twinkies, I don’t really crave sugar much anymore.

Thanks to this more enlightened up-and-coming generation, there is hope on the nutrition front. And it’s not too late for many overweight parents, either, to follow their children’s lead and Just Say No to those delicious, but deadly, Hostess cupcakes.

Lynn Armitage is a healthier, enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.

Cereals with more than 50 percent sugar by weight (source: The Environmental Working Group):
• Kellogg's Honey Smacks
• Malt-O-Meal Golden Puffs
• Mom's Best Cereals Honey-Ful Wheat
• Malt-O-Meal Berry Colossal Crunch with Marshmallows
• Post Golden Crisp
• Grace Instant Green Banana Porridge
• Blanchard & Blanchard Granola
• Lieber's Cocoa Frosted Flakes
• Lieber's Honey Ringee Os
• Food Lion Sugar Frosted Wheat Puffs
• Krasdale Fruity Circles
• Safeway Kitchens Silly Circles