Parents want their kids to eat a healthy and balanced diet. Eating fruits and vegetables, limiting fat intake, and keeping tabs on portion sizes is an excellent way of doing this, and standard procedure for most parents. One thing that frequently sneaks under parental radar, however, is sugar. According to Forbes magazine, the average American child consumes 32 teaspoons of sugar a day. The American Medical Association suggests no more than 9 – and that’s for adults!
Should you limit your child’s sugar intake? The answer is an unequivocal yes. Refined sugar has no nutritional value. Sugar has been linked to obesity, nervousness, acne, fatigue, diabetes, and a host of other conditions. The less sugar any person takes in, the better, but for children, sugar is doubly damaging because they’re learning eating habits now that will follow them through life.
Most parents are aware that sugar is not something they should be feeding their children. So how does so much make it into our kids’ diets? The two biggest culprits are sugary drinks and sweet snacks. Most parents would not knowingly let their kid eat 10 teaspoons of sugar, yet one can of Coke contains precisely that much. Sport drinks, fruit drinks, and flavored waters are equally as saccharine.
As a parent, it’s a good idea to check the labels. Even seemingly healthy foods like kids’ yogurts and sorbet can contain tons of sugar. It doesn’t mean they can’t be part of your child’s diet at all, but it’s up to you to monitor overall sugar intake, and that means cutting down wherever you can.
If you decide to limit your child’s sugar intake, it’s a good idea to do it gradually. A slow taper from sugary foods to healthier ones has a better chance of succeeding than a crash diet approach. Try replacing sodas with water, seltzer, or homemade drinks. Ice tea is great because you can choose a flavor your kids will love and limit sugar to one teaspoon per glass. If your child has a sweet tooth, point them to naturally sweet snacks like fresh and dried fruit.
The earlier you start your children on the path of monitoring and limiting sugar intake, the healthier they will be for the rest of their lives. Having less sugar food in your home will be a boon to everyone’s health, including your own.