A few decades ago, parents did not worry too much about what they feed their kids. They would prepare meals at home but also give them store-bought snacks without hesitation. However, times have changed. With the internet being at the tip of our fingers, parents are more aware of what goes into preparing store-bought snacks. There has been a conscious shift in the consumption of food by parents and young adults. Back in the day, you probably grew up eating breakfast cereals that were pumped with sugar. Beverages, granola bars, yogurts, and other snacks that claim to be healthy are actually full of added sugars that are pretty harmful to your kids.
So, if your kids are used to having sugar-packed snacks, meals, and beverages, we are here to tell you why you should cut down on the quantity they consume. It is also crucial to know how you can condition your kid to stop being stubborn about demanding those treats. Keep reading as we also give you some tips and tricks to help reduce your child’s sugar intake:
How Much Is Too Much?
Before we get into how you can limit your kids’ sugar intake, let’s look at how much sugar a child typically needs. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), kids from the ages of two to eighteen should have less than six tablespoons of sugar (which is approximately around 25 grams) daily to maintain a healthy heart (1).
There are essentially two types of sugars — free or added sugars and natural sugars. Free sugars are sugars added to food and drinks, while natural sugars are the ones that occur naturally in fruits, honey, raisins, etc. It is recommended that free sugars and natural sugars should not be more than five percent of the total number of calories you consume daily through food and drinks (2).
How Does Sugar Affect A Kid’s Health?
The obvious answer is that consuming too much sugar leads to weight gain, obesity, and diabetes. When your kids’ diet consists of more added sugar than what they need consistently, it can put them at risk for type two diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, it’s best to cut out sugar entirely for toddlers and limit sugar intake to up to six tablespoons in older kids until they are eighteen (3). In fact, nowadays, many kids are prone to type two diabetes which proves to be chronic. Sometimes heavy sugar content in the blood can cause irreparable and long-term diseases. That’s also how other side health issues are born.
Apart from these, excessive sugar consumption leads to an increased risk of tooth decay, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, and other health complications. It can also affect your kids’ moods, activity, and hyperactivity levels.
Understand Sugars And How They’re Marketed
While several snacks are marketed as “healthy” for your kids’ growth and development, it’s up to you to read and be informed about what’s good and bad for your children. Sugar is not entirely bad for children. In fact, natural sugars are required for your kids’ healthy growth and development. So, don’t be afraid of fruits, whole grains, yogurt, and beans even if they contain sugar because these are natural sugars. However, steer clear of added sugars in cakes, sweets, biscuits, chocolates, fizzy drinks, and look out for their labels. They can hide under words like dextrose, sucrose, agave, and more which all mean sugar (4). Therefore, it is important to detect the difference between the right kind of sugar to give your child.
What Can You Do To Limit Sugar?
If your kid has a sweet tooth, cutting out sugar entirely from their diet might not be a smart choice. Therefore, replace added sugary treats with natural sugars. It is however common for some kids to avoid it and throw tantrums about the diet change, but a little bit of pre-conditioning is important to make them adapt to it. Here are a few ways you can limit unhealthy sugar consumption:
1. Say No To Sweetened Beverages
Avoiding sugary drinks, including fruit juices, can help cut down on sugar to a significant extent. Add natural drinks like coconut water to your daily diet and ditch the fizzy beverages. You could also add some cut sweet fruits to water to infuse it with flavor, so your kids enjoy it. Some other examples can be lemonade with a hint of sugar-free and boiled saffron milk for flavor.
2. Educate Yourself About Food Labels
Learn what food labels mean and always read them before making a purchase. A tetra pack of apple juice might say, “15 grams of total sugar, 0 grams of added sugar”, while another one might say, “20 grams of total sugar, 10 grams of added sugar”. So, now that you know that added sugar should be avoided, you can make a more informed purchase.
3. Find Alternative To Sugary Treats
Cakes, cookies, chocolates, and cupcakes are the norm during children’s birthday parties. But you can be the change and switch it up with healthy alternatives. Make fruit kebabs with grapes, apples, strawberries, and berries using toothpicks so your kids can enjoy some colorful and healthy fruits. You could also add bananas, raisins, or dates to sweeten up the treats.
Well, we are not saying skip the sugary treats entirely, because they deserve it sometimes. Just make sure to make it an occasional affair meant for special events. You can also use these treats as a prize to make your kid achieve a goal. But it is important to not make this a regular habit.
If your kids are used to consuming tons of sugar daily, it might be difficult to retrain their taste buds. But with a little hard work and persistence, you will get there. Remember that sugar is called “slow poison” for a reason. So, make the switch now to avoid a lifetime of difficulty and health complications. We hope we have helped you understand why sugar is bad for your kid. Comment below and let us know how you plan to limit your children’s sugar intake!
- Sugar Recommendation Healthy Kids and Teens Infographic
- Sugar: the facts
- Does Sugar Make Kids Hyper? FAQs About Kids & Added Sugar
- What to Do When Your Child Eats Too Much Sugar