Lucas offers some suggestions on choosing foods with no or little added sugar and recommends that for a short time, until you easily recognize these foods, you will have to become a “sugar detective.” Added sugar is syrup or sugar that is added to foods during processing; the sugar in fruits, vegetables and other whole foods are natural sugars.
- Preschoolers averaging 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day should limit added sugar to about 4 teaspoons (16 grams) per day.
- Children ages 4 to 8 who average 1,600 calories per day should limit added sugar to about 3 teaspoons (12 grams) a day. To fit in all the nutritional requirements for this age group, there are fewer calories available for added sugar.
- Pre-teen and teens averaging 1,800 to 2,000 calories per day should not have more than 5 to 8 teaspoons (20 to 32 grams) of added sugar per day.
Added sugar has been linked to obesity, which is then linked to so many other chronic diseases: type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer.
Kentucky is the 7th most obese state for children, with 36 percent of its children overweight or obese, according to Child Health Data. And studies have shown that children who are obese are likely to become obese adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The United States Department of Agriculture found that kids eat 18 teaspoons of added sugar a day and most of that comes from what they eat at home.
One 12-ounce regular soda has 8 teaspoons of sugar, which is more sugar than children of any age should have in a given day.
In Kentucky, 15 percent of high school students reported that they had three or more sodas a day during the past seven days, 25 percent said they had two or more per day, 33 percent said they had one or more a day, and 22 percent said they did not drink any soda, according to the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
How do you help your kids cut back on added sugar?
Multiple sources recommend limiting sugar-sweetened beverages, which includes soda, fruit drinks and sports drinks, as the most important thing we can do to decrease most of the added sugars in our kids diets. They recommend replacing it with water.
“The preponderance of research shows that sugar sweetened beverage consumption leads to excess caloric intake and weight
gain, as well as increased obesity rates among children
and adolescents,” says a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Serve treats occasionally and only at special events. The added sugar from daily cookies in the lunch box and ice-cream every night adds up quickly.
The easiest way to decreases added sugars is to eat whole, natural, unprocessed foods. They have no added sugars.
It is also important to learn how to read labels, especially snack foods, breakfast foods, any foods marketed toward children and beverages. Four grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon, so a food that has 16 grams of sugar has 4 teaspoons of sugar in it.
In addition to desserts and processed treats, granola bars, cereals, barbecue sauce, ketchup, salad dressings, tomato sauces, soups, fruit juice, lemonade, bottled teas, and flavored yogurts are common foods that kids eat that are loaded with added sugars, Madeline Vann reports for Everyday Health.
“Even 4 grams of sugar makes a difference. It may be only 7 grams versus 11,” in terms of product comparison “But if you’re making five choices a day, that’s 20 grams of sugar you’re saving,” Dr. Melina Jampolis, a physician specializing in nutrition, told Lucas.