Sugar, sugar, everywhere: blueberry muffins and juice for breakfast. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with fruit punch and Oreos for lunch. Fruit snacks and cupcakes at a school party. Ice cream with dinner.
As a nation — and even around the globe — we are eating far too much sugar every day. The average daily added sugar intake for children and young adults aged 2-19 is 17 tsp or 71 grams, coming mainly from sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts and sweet snacks.
In an effort to help combat the large amounts of sugar being consumed each day, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommends less than 10% of calories from added sugars for individuals 2 years and older and no added sugars for children under the age of 2. Similarly, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that children consume no more than 25 grams or 6 tsp of sugar per day, and also recommends no added sugar under the age of 2.
Recommendations to limit added sugars can help people live healthier lives. However, focusing only on limiting foods and drinks high in added sugars misses the bigger picture. It is important to focus on balanced nutrition and eating more of the foods we were meant to eat such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy or dairy alternative, and protein foods such as lean, unprocessed meats, poultry, fish, beans and nuts.
If we ate more of these foods and less processed foods, many of the diet-related diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease could be reduced significantly. The amount of sugar our children consumed would be drastically cut as well. Processed foods add calories with limited or no nutritional value.
It’s an important step in the right direction for anyone to reduce sugar as a way to promote a healthier lifestyle and help prevent certain diseases. In the Center for Better Health and Nutrition, we talk about practical ways to decrease added sugar using the tips below.
5 SIMPLE WAYS TO REDUCE SUGAR IN YOUR CHILD’S DIET
Eliminate or drastically reduce sugary drinks
This includes sodas, sports drinks, lemonade, fruit punch, energy drinks and 100% fruit juice. Even 100% fruit juice with no added sugar contains a lot of sugar with none of the fiber you will find in a piece of fruit to help fill you up. Drink mostly water and plain low-fat milk. Eat whole fruit, like an apple, instead of drinking apple juice.
Serve more vegetables and fruits
Most children (and even adults!) do not eat enough produce each day such as apples, carrots, broccoli, bananas and peppers. Whole fruit and vegetables contain water and fiber, which will help kids to feel full. Plus, research tells us that chewing is an important part of satiety. Include fruit and vegetables with meals and snacks. Aim for half your plate to be fruit and vegetables.
Eat whole foods that aren’t processed
Eating more foods in their natural state will not only ensure that you know what is in them, but will help eliminate added sugars.
Cook more at home
I realize this is a tough one, but the more you can cook for your family at home, the more control you have over the foods that you eat. Restaurants often add sugar (and salt and fat) to enhance the taste of the foods on their menu. But these additives aren’t necessary for making foods taste good. When you do eat out, plan ahead for healthier choices and be mindful of portions.
Pack snacks ahead of time
If you’re out and about with your kids, it’s tempting to grab a snack from the candy aisle, snack counter or vending machine. But if you plan ahead of time and bring snacks with you, it’s possible to avoid this scenario. Fruits, veggies and dips (such as nut butters), trail mix, and nuts all travel well.
If you have questions about our HealthWorks! Nutrition Program, or would like to schedule an appointment, please visit our webpage or call 513-636-4305.