Eggs are a natural choice to help children eat less sugarBy Valerie Johnson, MHSc, RD
In Canada, nearly one in three school age children are overweight,1 and experts say added sugar is a problem. According to a recent report, “One in every five calories that Canadians consume comes from sugar”, and youth have the highest intakes.2 Wholesome foods that are naturally nutritious and free of sugar, like eggs, can be an important part of helping children maintain a healthy body weight.
Eggs stand out as naturally nutritious—with only 70 calories in a large egg, no other food quite compares. Eggs have many important nutrients, including iron and vitamins A, B12, D, E, folate and choline. Plus, eggs are an excellent source of high quality protein. All this makes eggs an ideal choice for children’s healthy growth and development.
A recent study compared the effects of a high-protein breakfast to a high-carbohydrate breakfast in overweight adolescent girls.3 Regular breakfast eaters had lower blood sugar levels throughout the day after eating the high-protein breakfast with eggs. But this benefit of the high-protein breakfast was not observed in girls who regularly skipped breakfast.
It is well established that protein is more satiating than carbohydrate or fat. That means it naturally reduces our desire to eat between meals and keeps us feeling full for longer. For that reason, eggs make sense as a natural ally to help facilitate healthy weight management.
Another study found that a high-protein breakfast increased fullness more than a high-carbohydrate breakfast in breakfast skipping adolescents.4 Teens were less hungry after a high-protein breakfast with eggs and ate 130 fewer calories at lunch. This is consistent with research in adults that suggests eggs may be a simple way to help keep hunger and weight in check.
Recognizing the importance of wholesome foods, health authorities including Health Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the World Health Organization have recently identified the sugar added to processed foods as a concern. Other than providing calories, the sugar added to many of the processed foods marketed to children has no nutritional benefits. New guidelines are urging people to eat less added sugar.5,6
The new guidelines recommend that no more than 10%—ideally less than 5%—of our daily food calories should come from sugar added to foods.5,6 The guidelines focus on limiting the added sugars found in processed foods, as well as those found in honey, syrups, jams and fruit juices.
The 5 to 10% goal equates to about six to 12 teaspoons of added sugar for an adult. Children and adolescents, who have lower calorie needs than adults, should consume even less. That’s easy to exceed when a single can of sugar-sweetened soda contains up to 10 teaspoons of added sugar and a bowl of sweetened cereal contains about two to three teaspoons of sugar.
To help Canadian families reduce their sugar consumption, the Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends using fresh and staple foods to prepare meals from scratch more often. There’s growing recognition that people need to get back to eating real foods rather than relying on so many processed foods that are high in sugar and calories, but low in nutritional value.
The protein in eggs provides lasting energy to help kids stay alert and do their best at school and play. Families can count on the natural goodness of eggs to start the day off right!
Valerie Johnson is a Registered Dietitian and nutrition writer driven by a passion for inspiring people to eat well. She is a member of the College of Dietitians of Ontario, Canadian Nutrition Society and Dietitians of Canada.
¹ Statistics Canada. Overweight and obesity in children and adolescents: Results from the 2009 to 2011 Canadian Health Measures Survey. Health Reports, 2012; 82-003-X, Volume 23, Number3.
² Statistics Canada. Sugar consumption among Canadians of all ages. Health Reports, 2014; 82-003-X, Volume 22, Number 3.
³ Alwattar AY, Thyfault JP, Leidy HJ. The effects of breakfast type and frequency of consumption on glycemic response in overweight/obese late-adolescent girls. Eur J Clin Nutr, 2015 [In Press].
⁴ Leidy HJ and Racki EM. The addition of a protein-rich breakfast and its effect on acute appetite control and food intake in ‘breakfast skipping’ adolescents. International Journal of Obesity 2010; 34:1125-33.
⁵ Heart and Stroke Foundation. Position Statement on Sugar, Heart Disease and Stroke, 2014.
6 World Health Organization. WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children. Press release, March 4, 2015.