One strategy to prevent childhood obesity.

Canadians are in the midst of an epidemic of overweight and obesity, with obesity rates in children tripling in the last 25 years. Approximately 26% of Canadian children ages 2-17 years are currently overweight or obese.

There are several studies showing that low GI foods (i.e. foods with a low glycemic index), which break down slowly into sugar, are more beneficial than high GI foods (that rapidly turn into sugar in the body). In one study, a low GI breakfast was given to a group of obese teenage boys, and compared with a group given a high GI breakfast with the same calories. They were allowed to eat what they wanted for lunch. The boys given a high GI breakfast (higher sugar) ate 81% more calories at lunch compared to the boys who ate a low GI breakfast. A similar finding in another study showed that an average of 145kcal more were eaten after a high GI diet compared to a low GI diet. A third study showed that the low GI breakfast resulted in better satiety, as well as better insulin profiles.

Three ways to balance a higher glycemic meal, such as a piece of toast, is to add some fat, fiber, or protein. Almond butter, which has healthy fat and protein, could be spread on toast. Adding some fiber such as an apple would help lower the glycemic index a little bit more. A meal like oatmeal, which is a medium GI food, could be balanced out by adding ground flax, hemp, or chia seeds, which contain healthy fat and protein. So remember your healthy fat, fiber and protein!

Eating a healthy low sugar breakfast is a great strategy to promote health and prevent childhood obesity, especially when combined with 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, and staying physically active. Happy eating!

References: 1. Pediatrics. 2003 Mar;111(3):488-94. 2. Pediatrics. 2003 Nov;112(5):e414. 3. Pediatrics. 1999 Mar;103(3):E26.