Kids are sweet enough without added sugar

Evaluate how much added sugar your children are consuming.

Adults have a clear understanding of how important it is to monitor intake of sugary drinks. Sugary drinks increase heart rate, giving a burst of high energy followed by a feeling of low energy. Sugary drinks are also high in empty calories that lead to excess weight gain. Consuming too much sugar can cause our bodies to become insulin resistant, impacting the body’s ability to control how insulin is used.  

Just like adults, children are at risk of experiencing the same physical effects of too much sugar. Diets with high amounts of sugar over time may lead to excess weight gain and glucose intolerance. Most of us would be shocked to learn what the recommended amount of added sugar is for kids, especially concerning beverages. Sugar guidelines from The American Heart Association, including sugary drinks for children, birth to 18 years proposes,

  • Eliminate entirely added sugars from the diets of children 0-2 years.
  • Limit children 2-18 years to a maximum of six teaspoons of sugar (25 grams) per day.
  • Limit the sugary drink consumption of children 2 years and older to eight ounces (one cup) per week.

A policy review, “The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics,” conducted by the Committee on Nutrition, 1999–2000, and submitted to Pediatrics Journal Review  concludes that:

  • Fruit juice offers no nutritional benefit for infants younger than 6 months.
  • Fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits over whole fruit for infants older than 6 months and children.
  • 100% fruit juice or reconstituted juice can be a healthy part of the diet when consumed as part of a well-balanced diet. Fruit drinks, however, are not nutritionally equivalent to fruit juice.
  • Juice is not appropriate in the treatment of dehydration or management of diarrhea.
  • Excessive juice consumption may be associated with malnutrition (over nutrition and undernutrition).
  • Excessive juice consumption may be associated with diarrhea, flatulence, abdominal distention, and tooth decay.
  • Unpasteurized juice may contain pathogens that can cause serious illnesses.
  • A variety of fruit juices, provided in appropriate amounts for a child’s age, are not likely to cause any significant clinical symptoms.
  • Calcium-fortified juices provide a bioavailable source of calcium but lack other nutrients present in breast milk, formula, or cow’s milk. 

Juice is most typically used as a pacifying beverage for the young. While keeping children hydrated is important, water is the best beverage for this and during any time of day. To reduce the amount of added sugar in your child’s diet, start by examining how much added sugar your child is exposed to. You can then replace the sugary drinks with healthier options. 

Identify the difference between ‘added sugars’ and ‘all natural sugars’ 

The best way to identity if a food product has added sugar is to read the Nutrition Facts label and ingredients list on the package. Starting in 2018, the United States, it will be mandatory for the Nutrition Facts label to list all sugars, even added sugars.

Be aware that sugar goes by other names such as honey, table sugar, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate and high-fructose corn syrup.  Added sugars commonly found in juice are sucrose, glucose, fructose and sorbitol. Don’t be fooled by products labeled “fruit drinks” these products generally contain added sugars. Remember, 100 percent natural fruit juice still contains the fruit’s natural sugar. 

To learn more information about dietary guidelines for your child, talk with your health care provider. For more information about nutrition programs and initiatives visit Michigan State University Extension.

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