via – Laura Hsu, N.C., AVAC Nutritionist,
Is your child eating too much sugar?
It’s everywhere. . . Juice boxes at daycare, flavored yogurt at snack time, chocolate milk with dinner, cake and ice cream at a friend’s birthday party. Modern life has made limiting sugar harder than ever before. Looking at a typical day of eating, it’s quite easy for a 4-8 year old to get as much as 60 grams of added sugar a day. That’s not counting the naturally-occurring sugar in fresh fruit or milk.
How Much is Too Much?
According to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines, the amount of added sugar we consume per day should be limited to about 10% of total calories. So a child aged 4 – 8 who eats roughly 1,200 calories per day should be getting about 120 calories from added sugar (120 ÷ 16 calories per teaspoon = 7.5 teaspoons, or 30 grams of added sugar per day since there are 4 grams per teaspoon.) In other words, a typical American child is probably eating twice the amount of sugar than they should. Why does this matter? Sugar is highly addictive for one, and we are biologically programmed to prefer sweeter tastes. The more sugar we eat, the more we need to satisfy our cravings. In addition, studies have shown that young children who consume too much added sugar are at a higher risk for heart disease and/or diabetes when they get older. Sugar also causes inflammation, mood swings, and weight gain.
What Can We Do?
The good news is that our taste buds can be retrained to not crave sugar. How can you start cutting back?
Here are some suggestions for small changes that can make a big difference:
- Rethink your drink—Limit juice to 6 oz per day for children ages 6 years or younger, or up to 12 oz for ages 7 and up (or better yet, give them pure water with a squeeze of fresh lemon or toss in a couple of raspberries). The bigger culprit is sodas, so eliminating them is a huge first step.
- Look for added sugar on labels. Buy full-fat, unflavored yogurt, and flavor them yourself with fruit, cinnamon, and a small amount of maple syrup or honey.
- Try eggs in the morning rather than sweetened cereals. If your child prefers cereal, look for a brand that supplies no more than 6 grams of sugar per serving (or better yet, try oatmeal and add your own toppings, such as walnuts and berries). If your child adds milk to cereal, stay away from non-fat and opt for at least 2% fat for more staying power and less sugar.
- Trade in sugary snacks (granola bars, fruit roll-ups) for higher-protein options like apple wedges with almond or peanut butter, or carrot sticks with hummus.
- Trade in dessert after dinner for fresh fruit. Because of the fiber in fruit (not to mention vitamins and phytonutrients), they are a more nutritious pick, despite the naturally-occurring sugar that they contain.
For more information on this topic, along with any other nutrition questions you might have, please contact Laura Hsu at firstname.lastname@example.org
-Laura Hsu, N.C., AVAC® Nutritionist