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Are We Too Sweet? Our Kids' Addiction to Sugar

According to the AHA, high-sugar diets have been linked to numerous health issues, including obesity, increased risks for high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

Unfortunately, as careful as you may be, you may inadvertently be feeding more sugar to your child than you think. According to the AHA, added sugar is defined as any sugar or syrup that is added to foods during processing or preparation, and sugar or syrup that is added at the table during meal times. Soft drinks and sweetened beverages are the number-one culprit in Americans' diets, with one can of soda containing 8 teaspoons and almost 130 calories of sugar. Many brands of children's favorite foods, such as yogurt, cereal, and fruit juice also contain added sugar, which usually make them high in calories and low in nutrition. So how can you curb your child's sugar intake without cutting out all his favorite foods?

To help eliminate health risks due to poor diet, the AHA recommends a diet pattern that is rich in fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, high-fiber whole grains, lean meat, poultry, and fish. KidsHealth from Nemours offers parents some ideas to help your little one eat a healthier diet, and curb the amount of sugar that is going into his mouth. Some helpful tips include:

  • Offering naturally sweet and healthy snacks like fruit or raisins.
  • Replacing soda and sweetened beverages with low-fat milk (whole milk for children under 2) or water.
  • Offering small servings of 100% fruit juice. Although 100% fruit juice does have some health benefits, it is important to note that while it doesn't have any added sugar, the natural sugars it contains can still make it a high-calorie drink. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting juice intake to 4 to 6 ounces for children under 7, and 8 to 12 ounces for older children and teens.
  • Naturally sweet snacks are a healthy alternative, since fructose usually packs enough of a punch to satisfy a sweet tooth craving. If your child has a soft spot for sweet treats, try offering him one of the following naturally sweet and healthy snacks:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Frozen grapes or any other frozen fruit
  • Homemade fruit smoothie
  • Dried fruit
  • Apple slices and peanut butter
  • Homemade granola
  • It may seem impossible to completely cut out added sugar, but choosing healthier alternatives isn't as difficult as it may seem. Also, make sure high-sugar foods are not taking the place of foods with essential nutrients. The AHA recommends using your daily limit of added sugar wisely. For example, if your child wants something sweet, choose a nutrient-rich sweet snack like yogurt or a sugar-sweetened whole grain cereal. Although both of these have added sugar, they also have essential nutrients, unlike a piece of candy. And, of course, be a role model for your child. Leading a healthy lifestyle yourself is a surefire way to help your child grow up to do the same.

    << Previous: AHA guidelines

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