Sugar-sweetened foods and drinks are more common than ever, and it’s a frustrating job for parents to keep their children’s sugar intake at healthy levels. David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., at Children’s Hospital in Boston warns: “Sugar is being consumed in massive amounts by children. It’s delivering huge numbers of extra calories and placing young bodies under tremendous stress.”
Doctors recommend up to 5 teaspoons of added sugar daily, but health researchers are finding the average toddler and preschooler gets 16. The normal American 6 – 11 year old consumes about 24 teaspoons daily. The most well-known consequences are obesity and its damaging effects, but researchers have found that a sugar-rich diet can damage arteries and significantly increase the risk for heart disease later in life.
Seven steps to controlling sugar:
1) Check the Nutrition Facts Panel on the food item and see how many grams of sugar it has. One teaspoon of sugar = 4 grams. This is mainly for processed foods like cereals, crackers, and cookies.
2) Ban all sweetened drinks and soda in your home. Teach your child to drink water when thirsty. If they must have some juice, consider it a special treat like an oreo cookie.
3) Feed your child sugar through healthy foods like flavored-milk, whole-grain cereal, oatmeal and yogurt. Better yet, buy the unsweetened version of each and add your own maple syrup, honey, or sugar. This way you control the amounts.
4) Keep your kids moving. According to government guidelines, every hour of daily exercise and physical activity means they can have one more teaspoon of sugar.
5) Dessert doesn’t have to be apple pie and ice cream. Consider the varieties of fresh fruits like melons and berries. You can splurge once a week.
6) Don’t be too rigid regarding sugar. Your kids will end up craving treats even more. Be a “sugar-daddy” or a “sugar-mommy” for birthdays and other special occasions.
7) Top low-sugar grocery picks:
Cereal: Puffed Rice, Shredded Wheat, GrapeNuts.
Crackers: Triscuit Original, Wasa Crispbread, Kashi Heart to Heart Whole Grain
Peanut Butter: Smucker’s Natural, 365 Everyday Value, Justin’s Classic Peanut Butter
Photo: casualslack (flickr)