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Sugar Shock: How Much Added Sugar Is Too Much for Our Kids?
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Sugar Shock: How Much Added Sugar Is Too Much for Our Kids?

March 28, 2023

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Sugar gets a bad rap, even though it’s actually an essential nutrient that our bodies need for energy. First, it's important to understand that there are two types of sugars: naturally occurring sugars and added sugars.

  • Naturally occurring sugars are found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, and they are generally considered healthy as they are accompanied by important vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  • Added sugars, on the other hand, are sugars that are added to foods during processing or preparation, and they provide empty calories without any nutritional benefits.

In some cases, consuming natural sugars in moderation can provide health benefits. For example, consuming fruits, which are high in natural sugars, can provide important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health. Additionally, natural sugars can provide quick energy for athletes or individuals engaging in high-intensity exercise.

However, the amount of added sugar that children consume in the United States is concerning. According to the American Heart Association, children in the United States consume an average of 81 grams of added sugar per day, which is three times more than the recommended daily limit. This overconsumption of sugar can lead to a variety of health problems, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and dental cavities.

6 Surprising Sources of Added Sugar

Let’s explore five surprising sources of added sugar and the undesirable outcomes of a child's diet that is too high in added sugar.

Surprising Source #1: Yogurt

Yogurt is often marketed as a healthy snack option for children, but many brands contain a high amount of added sugar. For example, one container of a popular brand of vanilla yogurt contains 15 grams of sugar, which is equivalent to three teaspoons of sugar.

Sweet Swap: Introduce plain yogurt with honey and fresh fruit.

Surprising Source #2: Granola Bars

Granola bars are a convenient and easy snack option for kids, but many brands contain a high amount of added sugar. In fact, some granola bars contain as much as 12 grams of sugar per bar, which is equivalent to two and a half teaspoons of sugar.

Sweet Swap: Have your kids help make homemade energy balls with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.

Surprising Source #3: Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are often marketed as a way to replenish electrolytes and energy after physical activity, but many brands contain a high amount of added sugar. For example, one 20-ounce bottle of a popular sports drink contains 34 grams of sugar, which is equivalent to eight and a half teaspoons of sugar.

Sweet Swap: Mixkids is a powerful and easy way to supplement your child’s diet, with absolutely zero sugar. It’s packed with nourishing greens and vitamins C and D to support their growth and activities. There are no artificial flavors or fillers, so you can be confident your kids are getting just the best nutrition, without the unnecessary sugar.

Surprising Source #4: Canned Fruit

Canned fruit is often packed in syrup, which contains a high amount of added sugar. For example, one cup of canned peaches in syrup contains 30 grams of sugar, which is equivalent to seven and a half teaspoons of sugar.

Sweet Swap: Apples, oranges, and bananas are easily portable and pack fiber along with the natural sugars.

Surprising Source #5: Ketchup

Ketchup is a condiment that many kids love, but it contains a surprising amount of added sugar. One tablespoon of ketchup contains four grams of sugar, which is equivalent to one teaspoon of sugar.

Sweet Swap: Look for low-sugar versions of your favorite brands.

Surprising Source #6: Breakfast Cereals

Many children love starting their day with a bowl of cereal, but many popular brands of breakfast cereals are loaded with added sugars. In fact, a study by the Environmental Working Group found that some cereals marketed to children contain as much as 20 grams of sugar per serving, which is more than a glazed doughnut. Instead, opt for low-sugar cereals, such as plain oatmeal, and add fresh fruit for sweetness.

Sweet Swap: Whole-grain toast with nut butter, eggs, and smoothies are great kid-friendly, lower-sugar breakfast options.

Negative Outcomes of a Sugar-Loaded Diet for Kids

Consuming too much added sugar can have a variety of negative health outcomes for children. One of the most significant outcomes is obesity. In fact, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the United States over the past 30 years. This increase in obesity is due, in part, to the overconsumption of added sugar.

Additionally, a diet high in added sugars can lead to poor dental health and behavioral issues, such as hyperactivity and poor concentration.

Health Benefits of Reducing Sugar

It's important for parents and caregivers to be aware of the amount of added sugars in the foods and drinks that children consume. To reduce the amount of added sugar in a child's diet, encourage them to eat whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and limit their intake of processed and packaged foods. Reading food labels can also help identify sources of added sugars in foods.

Reducing the amount of added sugar in a child's diet can have significant health benefits. By being aware of surprising sources of added sugars and making healthy choices, parents and caregivers can help promote a lifetime of good health for their children.

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