Guest post time! How much sugar is too much for kids?

>> Monday, February 9, 2009

Today I'm pleased to have a guest post from Jenna at Food with Kid Appeal. Jenna is a mom of two on a mission to help us all feed our kids better. She says, "I want to demystify the farce that healthy food doesn’t taste good." Right on, Jenna! Her guest post today is on a subject that I often struggle with - healthy snacks without too much sugar for the kids. Read and learn!

How much sugar is too much for kids?

It’s tough to know the answer to this question. In my research for the Kid’s Nutrition class I teach, I came across two different statistics on recommended sugar consumption for kids. Preschool Rock cites World Health Organization and Food Nutrition Board recommend no more than 10% and 25% (respectively) of calories coming from added sugar per day. Nutrient intake seems to suffer when sugar consumption is greater than 16% of total calories. Assuming a 1200-1700 calorie a day diet and using the 10% limit, that’s 7-11 tsp per day. Here is a list of how much added sugar (not naturally occurring sugar such as lactose-milk and fructose-fruit) is in common toddler food. The list provides grams per item. There are 4g of sugar in one tsp. Here’s how that could shake out in your child’s day: sweetened whole-grain cereal for breakfast (~8g) chocolate milk (12g) and a PBJ (8g) for lunch, a flavored yogurt for snack (14g) for a total of 42g (or 10.5 tsp) in the day. And that’s before any dessert items, juice drinks or fruit snacks!

How much sugar are you consuming with your snacks?

Even in our diet where packaged foods, and sweet treats are already limited, I found some regular sugary offenders. I focused on removing things that we ate frequently, and things I could find alternatives for. My choice was to get sugar out of our regular meals and snacks as much as possible so we could have occasional cakes, cookies and treats without fretting about health.

The problem: Flavored Yogurts. Avg. 14-19g of added sugar per serving. Even organic flavored yogurt, or kefir (yogurt drink) has added sugar in it. And while organic cane juice is better for you than white sugar or HCFS, it’s s
till sugar. If you only indulge in yogurt on occasion, these little containers of sweet tart goodness are probably ok, but most young kids do not eat yogurt in moderation. Many young kids eat it daily and some have it more than once a day. We had a yogurt based product several times a week.

The solution: Plain low-fat yogurt in a large carton, thawed frozen berries, granola or cereal puffs and honey. Here’s a post on how we eat our yogurt bowls.

Flavored yogurt has as much as a serving spoon of sugar in each container!

The problem: Craisins (dried cranberries). Dried cranberries have 18g sugar per serving!! A serving of craisins is ONE ounce. We ate dried cranberries in our home made trail mix, and plain for snacks on a regular basis.

The solution: Substitute raisins or other unsweetened dried fruit for dried cranberries. Eden organic makes dried cranberries sweetened with apple juice and we buy these for special occasions.

The problem: Oatmeal. We eat oatmeal from scratch between 2-4 times a week. We used to top it with sugar or honey. Not sure how much our oatmeal had, but instant flavored oatmeal have an average of 11 g of sugar per packet.

The solution: Little boo got mashed bananas and pears to sweeten his oatmeal as an infant and he always gobbled up two servings for breakfast. I decided what was good enough for him was good enough for us so I started serving mashed bananas and applesauce on oatmeal mornings for the whole family. I cook the oatmeal with raisins and between the three fruits, there’s enough natural sweetness to make a mighty tasty oatmeal. Here’s my steel-cut oatmeal recipe.

The problem: Granola Bars. They have 6g of added sugar per bar. We were probably eating granola bars 4 or more times a week for snacks.

The solution: I just found a recipe for home made granola bars that I’m going to try, (click here for recipe) but my solution was to just stop buying them and offer fresh fruit or trail mix with unsweetened dry cereal, plain nuts and dried fruit instead of pre-packaged bars. If my math is right on the bars in this recipe, they would be sweeter than the pre-packaged kind (10g vs 6g) but I haven’t made them yet, so the size may be bigger. Plus these bars call for half honey. Honey is still sugar, it’s just a better sweetener than sugar.

The problem: Raisin Bran. The boos love Raisin Bran and almost always want second helpings. The affordable “two scoops” variety has added sugar on the raisins, which are already deadly sweet! It’s hard to know how much of the sugar in RB is from the added sugar vs. the natural sugar in the raisins, but let’s just say it’s way too much sugar to start the day. 19 g of sugar is listed on the box.

The solution: While I have found some organic brands that don’t seem to have added sugar, raisins themselves are high in natural sugar. Plus I can hardly afford to buy as much organic raisin bran as the boos like to eat, so I started focusing more on cheerios and chex for breakfast cereal, which have 1-2 g of sugar. Since we eat so many raisins in trail mix, snacks and oatmeal, we don’t need them in our breakfast cereal too.

I don’t think going cold turkey on sugar makes sense, but if you look at the snacks and meals your family eats routinely my guess is you can come with a handful of alternatives, or think of new ways using fruit to sweeten items instead of sugar.

What sugary snack are you thinking of replacing?

I like to make my own granola bars. They still have sugar, but I get to control the amount of sugar and the quality of the rest of the ingredients. Flavored yogurts were an eye-opener for us. Not only do so many contain HFCS, but most are as sugary as a dessert! Our favorite brand by far is Cascade Fresh. They're sweetened using fruit juice and are so delicious!


Sagan February 9, 2009 at 6:40 PM  

Wonderful post! I love a banana with cinnamon topping my oats. It's all the sweetness I need.

I don't like to eat hardly anything processed so 7 tsp of added sugar seems like a lot. But it's a tiny amount for people who are eating cereal/flavored yogurt etc (and especially drinks!). I'm so fascinated by the whole natural sugars/added sugars discussion and how much we should be limiting our consumption to, so thanks for addressing this!

Jenna February 9, 2009 at 8:10 PM  

hey cathy, thanks for having me here. sagan 7tsp does seem like a lot, but when you add up a little in cereal a little in yogurt a little in honey on a PBJ it adds up quick!

Super Healthy Kids February 10, 2009 at 5:05 AM  

Isn't it amazing! We have a display at the Health Department with three bottles. One water, One coke, and one Sobe "fruit" drink. Each one we have a cup of sugar in front of it. Of course in front of the water the bowl is empty, in front of the coke the bowl is half filled with sugar, and in front of the sobe its completely full! INSANE how much sugar is in some of those drinks.

TwinToddlersDad February 10, 2009 at 6:22 AM  

Great post! Really liked your analysis of sugar content in common foods and your ideas.

What I do not understand is why the food processors need to add extra sugar in their products in the first place. Is it because of market research? Or is there a technical reason?

Jenna February 10, 2009 at 6:36 PM  

twin toddlers- i'm sure manufacturers add sugar for taste. generally processed foods are so far from the natural food source that they need to be enhanced with sugar, fat and sodium. what's worse is the amount of "artificial" and "natural" flavors that are added. both are just chemical added to give a desired taste. often flavored yogurts don't even have strawberry and other fruits in them, just flavors and colors to make them look/taste like strawberry. but that's a whole other article....

Jenna February 10, 2009 at 6:38 PM  

super healthy kids- thanks for checking out this article. thanks for the intell on Sobe drinks, i'd never looked up the sugar amts in that brand, incredible!

Heather @ Not a DIY Life February 11, 2009 at 4:23 AM  

wonderful post! I've been making a lot of changes in our family's diet - because Hubby and I want to be healthy and lose weight and we want to be good examples for our toddler. I've been slowly changing our favorite recipes to replace sugar with maple syrup or honey. I love the idea of adding unsweetened applesauce to our oatmeal!

You're right - small changes instead of cold turkey have been working for our family. Thanks so much for sharing!

Mark February 11, 2009 at 6:25 AM  

I concur! Very nice post! Thanks!

Hanlie February 11, 2009 at 11:33 PM  

I'm so glad someone's addressing this, because kids really don't need refined sugar in their diets. Great post!

Mark February 13, 2009 at 9:42 AM  

Have a nice weekend!

My Year Without February 13, 2009 at 9:44 AM  

What an informative article! I like all of the suggestions-esp. about the oatmeal and cranberries. I have found unsweetened cranberries at a local co-op, but nowhere else! Also, there is a honey-sweetened yogurt that is full of good acidophilous, called "Nancy's" brand yogurt. Local to Oregon but I've seen it in health food stores out of state.

Thanks for having a guest post!

Erin February 14, 2009 at 9:48 AM  

Very nice post - it is something to keep an eye on for the kids and for the adults in the house. Keeping the HFCS and the partially hydrogenated foods out of our shopping cart has become second nature for us, so reading labels for sugars should be no problem. Thanks!

Jenna February 15, 2009 at 8:30 PM  

thx again for having me here, and for all your comments. i ran out of steel cut oats and made quick cooking rolled oats this am. i started the water going with raisins in it before adding the oats to give them time to plump. the water turned light brown, I was amazed how much of the natural sugar came out and flavored the water. after reading 101 Foods that could save your life, i want to start using other dried fruits to sweeten oatmeal-figs, papaya, cherries, currants.

Mark February 16, 2009 at 7:53 AM  

I hope your weekend was fabulous! YOU deserve it! :)

Anonymous March 18, 2009 at 4:24 AM  

Is table sugar just as bad for you as HFCS??

Melissa Telling October 2, 2009 at 5:35 PM  

Great post! Being diagnosed with gestationally diabetes during my last pregnancy caused me to take a close look at all the sugar that was hidden in our food. It's everywhere- spices, sauces, and even broths. It's amazing how much healthier you can be when you stop eating "dessert" for every meal.

I don't buy cold cereal very often, but my children do like raisin bran as an occasional treat. For a low sugar version, I purchase a plain bran flake cereal and add the raisins myself.

xlpharmacy reviews October 31, 2011 at 3:07 PM  

I think sugar is bad for our kids, because it become them hyperactives and then is very difficult to control them. I know this by my own experience with my little son.

Билеты Формула 1 Валенсия November 29, 2011 at 6:37 AM  

The guy is totally just, and there is no skepticism.

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