In a world of added sugar, advice for taming your child’s sweet tooth

WASHINGTON — We are all born with a sweet tooth, which can make it difficult to skip the sugary drinks and foods when we get hungry.

But Sally Squires, writer of the Lean Plate Club™ blog, said it’s crucial for children and adults alike to consume less added sugar in their diets.

“The recommendation, particularly for kids, is to eat 25 grams of added sugar, so that works out to about six teaspoons per day of daily calories as these added sugars,” Squires said. That is approximately 100 calories in added sugars.

But according to population studies, kids are eating more than triple that amount in added sugars every day, on average.

Children’s diets consist of an average of 17 percent added sugars, which adds up to 326 calories  per day. This is an increase from 1977 studies, which showed 14 percent, or about 275 calories per day.

This problem is affecting adults too; Squires said the added sugar consumption average for adults also increased in that timespan, from 228 to over 300 calories of added sugar per day.

Squires said that kids are getting the caloric equivalent of a full meal in added sugars alone every day, and that adults are getting the caloric equivalent of a snack.

“It’s not that sugar in itself in small amounts is bad, it’s just that added sugars in these bigger amounts are linked with increased rates of obesity and premature heart disease,” Squires said.

Reducing added sugar for children is not impossible, Squires said. She cited a new study from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which showed that children in urban schools — ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade — are willing to choose plain milk and 100 percent juice over sugary flavored milks.

So what can parents do to limit their family’s added sugar intake?

“The overall message is you can switch your kids to lower-sugar beverages and foods, but you’ve got to do it gradually,” Squires said. “And we do know that if you want to look for sweet things — because kids and adults love things that are sweet — turn to fruit. That’s a great choice, and you’re going to get a lot of nutrition with that.”

Sally Squires discusses the importance of reducing added sugar consumption
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