Not all sugar is created equal. What does that mean? There are natural sugars and added sugars. Natural sugars are found in many whole foods that Americans eat on a daily basis, like grains, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables (American Heart Association, 2018; Harvard Health Publishing, 2017). In fact, the natural sugars found in these whole foods have been shown to be beneficial in a healthy diet and can help prevent some diseases and even lower one’s cardiovascular risk.
It is the added sugar found in so many food products that is not healthy! Added sugar can put children at risk for many long-term health concerns such as obesity, tooth decay, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2019).
These potential health issues are serious, even life-threatening over time. Consider this staggering fact: American youth ages 9 to 13 consume, on average, 130 to 201 grams of regular soft drinks and fruit drinks each day (Battram, Piché, Beynon, Kurtz, & He, 2016). There are four calories in one gram of sugar, so this means these youth are consuming between 520 to 804 calories just in sweetened beverages EVERY day!
How can you spot added sugar in an ingredient list? Look for the following:
- Any ingredient ending in -ose
- Brown sugar
- High fructose corn syrup
- Corn sweetener
- Fruit juice concentrates
- Any sweetener you would add from your table (i.e., stevia, Splenda, maple syrup, etc.)
How can you be mindful about added sugar?
- Read nutrition labels
- Serve water and milk instead of soda or sport drinks
- Limit fruit juice
- Satisfy your child’s sweet tooth with whole fruit
- Eat as many fresh foods as possible!
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2019, March 25). How to reduce added sugar in your child’s diet: AAP tips. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/How-to-Reduce-Added-Sugar-in-Your-Childs-Diet.aspx
American Heart Association. (2018, April 17). Added sugars. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars
Battram, D. S., Piché, L., Beynon, C., Kurtz, J., & He, M. (2016). Sugar-sweetened beverages: Children’s perceptions, factors of influence, and suggestions for reducing intake. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 48(1), 27-34. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2015.08.015
Harvard Health Publishing. (2017, May). Too much added sugar can be one of the greatest threats to cardiovascular disease. Here’s how to curb your sweet habit. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-sweet-danger-of-sugar
Korioth, T. (2019). Added sugar in kids’ diet: How much is too much? American Academy of Pediatrics News. Retrieved from https://www.aappublications.org/news/2019/03/25/sugarpp032519