Recently, the American Heart Association (AHA) released a statement recommending we limit added sugar intake for our kids to no more than 6 teaspoons (25g) a day, and none whatsoever for those under 2 years.1
This may be easier said than done! Added sugar, as we well know, is hidden everywhere!
And children are on average consuming 2-3 times this amount. Not surprising, as 6 teaspoons of added sugar can be consumed pretty easily. These commonly eaten foods each contain around 25g of the sweet stuff:
- Nutri-Grain – just under 2.5 cups
- Milo – just over 2 tablespoons
- Sprite – 250ml (equivalent to 1 metric cup)
- Milkybar – approximately 1 50g bar
Even if your 12-year-old has one cup of Nutri-Grain and a Milkybar white chocolate snack, they pretty much hit their upper limit! It leaves little room for a scoop of post-dinner icecream.
Limiting for good reason
The AHA believe we need to exercise caution with the amount of sugar we are feeding out children due to increased risk for dental caries, obesity, and cardiovascular disease; a belief shared by the Harvard School of Public Health.
“There is clear evidence that added sugars, especially sugary beverages, contribute to obesity and other metabolic problems,” says Dr. Frank Hu, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. “The AHA’s recommendation to limit added sugar intake for children is an important strategy to improve children’s diet and overall health. Schools, parents, health professionals, and policy makers should work together to help children develop healthier eating and drinking habits at early age.”2
Whilst it will take a shift in habit, reducing added sugar intake is not impossible.
A great place to start is limiting the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, like ice-teas, and fruit-flavoured, sports, and soft drinks. Replace with plain or soda water flavoured with fruit and fresh herbs!
Next, not having the Oreos or tub of Neapolitan always in the house can help. Have instead veg, fruit, plain yoghurt, nuts and whole food dips readily available for the kids as a go to snack.
And lead by example. Share the same nutritious and delicious snacks that they eat!
But finally, remember that the occasional treat is okay for most – so when that birthday party rolls round, or you are all enjoying a sweltering Sunday at the beach, having a slice of cake or a Paddle Pop shouldn’t be the end of the world.
Doing it for the kids
Kids need all their stomach room for nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, and other whole foods, to help them grow big, smart, and strong. Replacing processed, packaged foods high in added sugars with whole foods that are closer to nature may be one of the best things we can do for our children’s long-term health and happiness.
By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)
- Vos, MB, Kaar, JL, Welsh, JA, Van Horn, L V, Feig, DI, Anderson, CAM, Patel, MJ, Cruz Munos, J, Krebs, NF, Xanthakos, SA & Johnson, RK 2016, ‘Added Sugars and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Children’, Circulation, [Epub ahead of print]
- Harvard School of Public Health 2016, Healthy kids ‘sweet enough’ without added sugars, viewed 29 August 2016, <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2016/08/23/aha-added-sugar-limits-children/>