A nutritionist's guide to shopping for less sugary foods for kids

KVUE shops with a nutritionist to find ways to shop healthy.

AUSTIN - In an attempt to show the amount of added sugar American children eat every five minutes, more than 45,000 pounds of sugar were dumped on Times Square Tuesday by the company, KIND Snacks.

So, how easy is it to cut a significant amount of that sugar from your child's diet?

To answer that question, KVUE thought it would be helpful to go shopping at HEB with a nutritionist to show you what making healthy options is like.

Marlene Merritt has been a certified nutritionist for 15 years and owns Merritt Wellness Center in Austin. Her opinions, though, do not represent those of HEB.

Our first stop were meats and cheeses.

Merritt said feeding them fat instead of sugar helps.

"I know that we've grown up with this low-fat thing about eating,” said Merritt. “It's just that this isn't actually helpful for kids. They have super-fast metabolisms and if they eat carbohydrates all the time, it's like throwing newspapers on flames."

She recommends cheese and turkey as snacks – and the Justin’s brand of peanut butter for those with a sweet tooth.

Next stop: Produce.

"Back in 2001, the American Pediatrics Association said kids should not have more than one glass of fruit juice a day,” said Merritt. “The sugar content in these juices is enormous. It would make much more sense to give them actual fruit."

Merritt said to avoid processed foods to reduce sugar intake.

"Even old classics like Cheerios,” said Merritt. “This is Honey Nut Cheerios, kids really like it because it's really sweet. Second ingredient is sugar."

Merritt said it would make better sense to give your kids some eggs in the morning or “boil some eggs and leave them in the fridge than use cereal as a food."

Merritt's opinion on seemingly healthy granola bars?

"Bars have changed,” she said. “Because the classic granola bar that we knew … Nature Valley granola bars are now sort of downgraded down closer to the floor (on the supermarket aisles)  … more popular is sort of higher up here where we start to get the chocolate chip bars … A better alternative would be to get a low-carb bar.”

And instead of sugar, consider sweeteners like Monk Fruit and Stevia instead.

After our shopping trip finished, back at Merritt's office – she recommends this to live a nutritionally healthy life: "Eat real food … We buy an enormous amount of stuff that comes in bags, boxes and cans … If we started making a little bit more real food, there'd be a huge shift in our health."

HEB has registered dieticians that can help you make smarter choices while you shop. To set up an appointment or get a consultation you can call 855-481‑1149. You can also sign up online here.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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