We all know how most young children gravitate towards sweet foods, something that research suggests is instinctive. And as parents, we are do our best to try and avoid excess consumption of sweets. But have you stopped to really read the labels of all the foods you purchase – and how much sugar you may be unintentionally feeding your child, and harming their health?
The Harvard School of Public Health reports that “Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates have tripled in the U.S., and today, the country has some of the highest obesity rates in the world: one out of six children is obese. Childhood obesity has been called one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. Obesity can harm nearly every system in a child’s body-heart and lungs, muscles and bones, kidneys and digestive tract, as well as the hormones that control blood sugar and puberty – and can also take a heavy social and emotional toll. What’s worse, youth who are overweight or obese have substantially higher odds of remaining overweight or obese into adulthood, increasing their risk of disease and disability later in life.”
Here’s a sugar shock fact: The average American eats about 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day. This adds up to over 70 pounds of sugar a year. Even worse, American teens are eating closer to 34 teaspoons a day!
A nutrition label presents specific contents in grams, making it challenging for parents to figure out what their child is actually consuming. To help you out, you should know that every 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon of sugar.
Serving size is also a factor. Often, what “looks” like a single serving may actually be multiple servings – but your child doesn’t know that – and they may be consuming double or even triple the size, and corresponding amounts of sugar.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a healthy diet for children limits sugars. They note that “naturally occurring sugars, such as those in fruit and milk, are not added sugars. Examples of added sugars include brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, honey and others.” Note that because food labels list ingredients in descending order of how much of that item is being used in the product, if you see sugar in the first 1-3 ingredients listed on a food label, it’s probably high in sugar.
The American Heart Association has made the following recommendations about sugar limits:
- Children = Limit to 3-4 teaspoons per day
- Adult women/teens= Limit to 5 teaspoons per day
- Adult men/teens= Limit to 8-9 teaspoons per day
While numbers will vary by brand, to give you a perspective on how sugar is “hiding” in many foods young children enjoy, here’s a few numbers.
- 12-ounce can of soda = 10 teaspoons
- Single service kid’s yogurt = 3-4 teaspoons
- Instant oatmeal – 3 teaspoons
- Cereal bars – 3-4 teaspoons
- Apple juice (1 cup) – 7 teaspoons
- Apple sauce (1/2 cup) – 3-4 teaspoons
- Spaghetti sauce – 2 teaspoons
As a parent, you’re responsible for what your children eat. Do them a favor, and take charge of their sugar intake so as to lay the groundwork for better health.
About the author: Brenda Cabrera is the Founder and Director of the award-winning Kidz Childcare & Preschool. She is passionate about fostering a positive, safe and fun environment for children that promotes learning and social skills. Learn more at www.Kidz-Care.com.