Most parents at some
point have uttered the phrase, “My child has such a sweet tooth!” And yet few parents
do anything about it. We hear time and
again that children have too much sugar in their diets. Cutting sugar isn’t a
simple task. But it’s an important one.
“One third of children in the U.S. are affected
by overweight and obesity,” said Beverly Haynes, RN, nurse clinician in the
Weight Management Clinic at Children’s of Alabama. “We know that this leads to
a multitude of even more serious diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart
disease, liver disease, joint problems and many more.”
One way to cut down
on sugar is to reduce or eliminate the obvious offenders. Parents can easily restrict
candy and products like maple syrup, honey and jellies. Eliminating sugar-sweetened
drinks like sodas and fruit juices alone can make a huge impact! Consider these
Each 12-ounce serving of a
carbonated, sweetened soft drink contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of
sugar and 150 calories. Sweetened drinks are the largest source of added sugar
in the daily diets of U.S. children.
Consuming one 12-ounce
sweetened soft drink per day increases a child's risk of obesity.
But it’s important to know that many foods contain “hidden sugars.” Products not normally considered
“sweet” can have a lot of sugar in them.
Examples are peanut butter, salad dressings, and ketchup.
In addition, the carbohydrates in highly refined foods with simple
sugars, such as white flour and white rice, are easily broken down and cause
blood sugar levels to rise quickly. Complex
carbs, found in whole grains, on the other hand, are broken down more slowly,
allowing blood sugar to rise more gradually.
According to Beverly, the best source of sugar is fruits and
vegetables. Instead of soda or juice
drinks, serve low-fat milk, water or 100 percent fruit juice. A word of
caution: although there's no added sugar in 100 percent fruit juice, the
calories from those natural sugars can add up. So limit juice intake to 4-6
ounces for children under 7 years old, and no more than 8-12 ounces for older
kids and teens.
To find out if a food has added sugar, look at the ingredient list
for sugar, corn syrup or sweetener, dextrose, fructose, honey or molasses.
Avoid products that have sugar or other sweeteners high on the ingredient list.
Children’s weight management experts will never tell a patient they can’t
enjoy an occasional slice of birthday cake. Occasional treats are okay. The key
is that parents are aware of the amount of sugar in their children’s diet, and
that they stay informed by reading the labels on foods and setting limits. Above
all, it’s important for parents to be a good role model. Kids will see mom and
dad’s wholesome habits and adopt them, leading to a healthier lifestyle
throughout childhood and into adulthood.