Sixth-grade students at St. Luke's School in New Canaan increased their awareness of added sugars during a recent presentation on nutrition.

As part of the life skills curriculum, health and nutrition consultant Dawn Kurth, of No Kidding Nutrition, engaged students in a demonstration that tested their knowledge of added sugars in many common beverages and snacks.

"Learning how much actual sugar is in a particular drink or snack food surprised many of the kids," Kurth said in a press release. "The students filled clear plastic cups with the actual amount of sugar found in each product. Seeing a cup half full with sugar and realizing that this was what they were consuming really drove the point home. We tied that in with a talk about how diets high in added sugars and refined flours are the biggest culprits when it comes to the empty calories that cause weight gain and insulin-resistance that leads to diabetes."

The St. Luke's sixth-graders also learned that the choices they make in terms of what foods they eat really do matter. The United States has seen the prevalence of obesity in children triple since 1980, with nearly 17 percent or 12.5 million of children now considered obese, according to Kurth. Obesity and other lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol consumption can increase one's risk of chronic disease by nearly 70 percent. Chronic diseases are often preventable with a healthy diet that includes lots plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables and real, whole foods rather than processed foods.

"Unfortunately, most kids, and adults as well, don't realize that they can have such a positive, powerful impact on their health through the food and drinks they consume. We all know that eating lots of junk food is unhealthy. But how many people know that eating a healthy diet has such an enormous preventative effect?" Kurth said.

Kurth, who has a Master of Business Administration, is enrolled at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, an 12-month wellness training program certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.