Kids are consuming too much added sugar according to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control. On average, 16% of daily calories consumed by American children come from sugar. The USDA 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend that discretionary calories – solid fats and added sugars – should not exceed 5 to 15% of total caloric intake.
Added sugar, a caloric sweetener that doesn’t exist naturally in foods, comes with many different names: white sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, dextrose, glucose, and molasses. Most ‘processed’ food (including many boxed, frozen, and pre-prepared foods), have added sugar. Some unexpected foods high in sugar are chicken nuggets, dried fruit snacks, granola bars, and ketchup.
For most children, about 322 daily calories come directly from added sugar (except teen boys whose daily intake averages around 440 calories). Preschool-aged children 2 to 5 ate the least amount of calories from added sugars, but added sugar still made up over 13% of their daily diet.
While it may come as no surprise that children are eating too much sugar, a few findings in the report were pretty surprising:
- Overall, more added sugars came from foods compared to beverages. 59% of calories from added sugar came from food and 41% from beverages. Previous research has shown that sodas are the single leading food source of added sugars among children, adolescents, and adults.
- Most added sugars are consumed at home, not at school or in child care.
- Household income seemed to have no effect on the amount of added sugars that children consumed.
How can you reduce added sugar in your family’s diet?
To start, replace unhealthy processed snack foods with fresh healthy ones. Kids eat what is available to them so keep sugary snacks and junk food out of the house. If you surround children with healthy options, they’ll eat nutritious food.
Make food look good: Children eat with their eyes first. If the food looks good, your kids will want to try it. Be creative, like topping off a bowl of cereal with a smiley face using bananas for eyes and blueberries for a mouth.
Get your children involved: If children are involved in the food shopping and preparation, they are more likely to eat a healthy meal.
Make fruits and vegetables a part of every meal: Children should consume five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day, with a single serving equaling the size of a child’s fist. Incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet can be as simple as adding lettuce and tomatoes to a sandwich or offering grapes or other fresh fruit with every meal.
Watch what your kids drink: Sugary beverages, like soda and juice drinks (even 100% juice), can increase the risk of tooth decay. Instead, serve water or low-fat milk (for children over age 2).
Make healthy snacks: Toddlers and young children eat frequent small meals throughout the day. Give your child nourishing snacks that will give them a burst of energy, like these snack ideas:
- Peanut butter and banana on whole-wheat bread
- Red, orange, yellow and green pepper strips
- Fruit salad made with pineapple chunks, bananas, grapes and berries
- Celery or apples with peanut butter
- Hummus and baby carrots
- Turkey with lettuce and tomato in a pita pocket
- Low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese with fresh fruit
- Cubes of low-fat cheese
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