“If you eat too much sugar, you can get, like, really fat and you can get sick, too.”
Wise words from 9-year-old Eduardo Perez, who has agreed to eat absolutely no sugar during an entire day.
It’s part of a campaign by Arte Publico Press, a publishing company for U.S. Hispanic literature based at the University of Houston.
The initiative is called “A Day Without Sugar” and challenges kids to do just that: survive a full day without consuming any food or drinks that have added sugar. That’s not an easy task considering sugar is literally everywhere. Not just in cake and soda but also in juices, bread and cereal.
Arte Publico Press Director Nicolas Kanellos says the campaign was born out of a bilingual children book series called “Salud Familia.” That series aims to tackle childhood obesity in low-income Hispanic neighborhoods.
“As part of that series, we published a book called ‘A Day Without Sugar’ in English and in Spanish, and it’s been distributed through neighborhoods and everything. And it occurred to us that the whole concept of the book by Diane de Anda of challenging kids to find the hidden sugars in food and to limit their sugar intake was a great idea to reach kids around the country.”
There’s a good reason why the initiative targets Hispanic and in particular Mexican American kids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost four in 10 Mexican American children ages 6 to 11 are overweight. Forty-four percent of Mexican American adolescents — ages 12 to 19 — are overweight and almost one in four are obese. These numbers are significantly higher than those for non-Hispanic kids.
Kanellos says that could be a real problem for America in the future.
“Latino children right now are 22 percent of the national population. By 2050, they’ll be 35 percent of the population. We have a health crisis in the making here when type 2 diabetes is going to overwhelm our whole health care system.”
Eduardo is not overweight and although he likes sweets and candy, he’s convinced he won’t have a problem eating no sugary stuff for a day.
His mother, Sara Perez, says she’s going to have more problems with her 3-year-old daughter.
“Because she is used to it, and I’m ashamed to say that, but she’s used to some more candies, sometimes on a daily basis. So for me, I believe, everything (should) start when they’re pretty young.”
Perez says she’s already pretty conscious about what she eats and what she feeds her kids but the health initiative made her aware of more things she can do to keep her children healthy. For example, rewarding them with a book or toy instead of candy.