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Eat It

By Alexis Nicoson and Katie Prater, Student Pharmacists with Karen Kier, Pharmacist on behalf of the ONU HealthWise team

Eat It was a 1984 parody written by “Weird Al” Yankovic of Michael Jackson’s 1983 hit titled Beat It.  Weird Al was first introduced to the public in 1976 at the age of 16 on The Dr Demento Radio Show. He has won five Grammy awards, written 150 parodies and sold over 12 million albums. Besides his comic parodies, he writes and plays polka medleys of several popular songs with his accordion. His parody of Eat It was about an exasperated parent attempting to get their child to eat. This is not far from reality for many parents and grandparents. 

Did you know that nearly one-third of children below the age of five do not eat a daily fruit or vegetable? 

Making sure children have a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables with less added sugars can greatly impact their health. Some health issues are lifelong, but can be reduced by ensuring children are eating a balanced diet every day. Some of the health problems noted from an imbalance of nutrients include obesity, cavities, diabetes and heart disease. 

A study in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found many children between the ages of 1-5 are not eating a daily fruit or vegetable, but are regularly consuming sugar-sweetened beverages. On average, every child should be consuming at least one cup of fruit per day and at least three-fourths of a cup of vegetables per day. 

It might be difficult to get some children to eat fruits and vegetables, so it is important for caregivers to find creative ways to incorporate these foods into the daily diet. There are a variety of creative ways to disguise fruits and vegetables to make them appealing for children. One way to disguise fruits is by adding them to pancakes or waffles. Caregivers can add bananas or strawberries to a bowl of cereal so they mix together. To make vegetables more appealing, parents can cut them into fun shapes to encourage children to eat them.  

While caregivers need to be mindful of how many sweetened beverages children are consuming each day, they do not need to completely cut them out of a child's diet. It is important to be sure the amount a child is consuming does not overpower the amount of healthy food they are eating. 

Children are not the only ones who need to watch their sugar intake, but more research has been evaluating added sugars in the adult diet as well.

There are many ways sugary foods come into our daily diets. Research has demonstrated the harmful effects on health when added sugars are consumed in high quantities. Some of these harmful effects include obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems. There is often a focus on sugar included in the beverages we consume, but many other sources can contribute to our sugar intake. 


When consuming sugary drinks like soda (pop), it can increase the chance of developing heart disease. Eating too much sugar can lead to increased weight gain in children and the likelihood of childhood and adult obesity. The research reported a higher incidence of breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, and overall cancer risk were associated with high dietary sugar intake.

A study in the British Medical Journal searched for evidence on the relationship between sugar consumption and health outcomes. The study reported consuming high amounts of sugar, mainly from sugary beverages, was associated with increased body weight. Other main focuses of the search found evidence for higher rates of cancer and heart disease with more sugar intake. In particular, higher rates of pancreatic cancer were seen with the high intake of sugar in the form of fructose. Type 2 diabetes was significantly higher in those using fructose in their diet versus sucrose (table sugar). It is important to consider the risks associated with high sugar intake including the type of sugars when planning meals.  

Overall, the literature review included 8,601 unique studies evaluating high dietary sugar consumption resulting in more harm to health, especially for heart disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, and cancer. It is recommended to reduce the amount of free or added sugars consumed to below 25 grams (6 teaspoons) per day. In addition, the evidence would suggest limiting sugar-sweetened beverages to less than one serving per week, which is around 200-355 milliliters (8-12 ounces). These recommendations along with other lifestyle changes can help to optimize overall health. 

A good example of a healthy change is to substitute almonds for snacks such as cookies and chips. A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found almonds could improve the functional lining of blood vessels and lower bad cholesterol. In addition, the study reported those who consumed almonds for snacks had a smaller waist size by about 1 inch and a lower overall body weight than those who ate other snacks.  

Whether you are an adult or child, the idiom “you are what you eat,” may be even more true today!  So just eat it (healthy)!

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