Kids are still eating too much sugar, regardless of parents’ income, and they’re getting most of it at home

By Tara Kaprowy
Kentucky Health News

American children’s sugar consumption is down, but kids are still eating too much sugar, and they are getting most of it at home.

So says a new study from the National Center for Health Statistics, which also found parent income is not playing a part in how much sugar kids are consuming. “We found that all kids are eating a lot of added sugars,” said Cynthia Ogden, the study’s co-author and an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (One study found kids in low-income families are drinking more juice than recommended, however.)
The study found sugar consumption has dropped to 17 percent of total caloric intake, from 22 percent, but 17 percent is still well higher than federal guidelines, which say total discretionary calories, including added sugar and solid fat, should account for only 5 to 15 percent of total daily caloric intake.
Sugar consumption may have declined because kids are consuming less sugar when they’re not at home, thanks to bans or limits on sugary drinks at schools, said Dr. Wendy Slusser, an associate clinical professor of medicine at the Mattel Children’s Hospital at the University of California. Kentucky has such a ban.
Most of the sugar is coming from food, not beverages, Linda Carroll reports for MSNBC. About 16 percent of kids’ calorie intake comes from “added sugars,” such those added to breads, cakes, jams, chocolate and ice cream. Those numbers do not include sugars that naturally occur in food, such as in fruit or fruit juice.

Going forward, the goal is to address how parents are feeding their children. “This is an opportunity for families,” Slusser said. “There are estimates now that we could shift children’s weights back to 1970s levels if we could just take 350 calories out of a kid’s diet each day.”

One way to do so is using water to replace sports drinks and those with 10 percent fruit juice. Giving kids Cheerios rather than Honey Nut Cheerios — or any cereal that’s lower in sugar — also helps. Reading nutrition labels, avoiding processed foods and planning ahead for healthy snacks and nutritious dinners can also solve the problem. “Once there’s a routine, parents can integrate healthier foods into their children’s diets,” Slusser said. “When you’re always eating on the fly, you end up eating too many processed foods.” (Read more)

Kentucky Health News is a service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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