Tips to Limit Added Sugar from Your Child's Diet

Author

Emily McPhee, Registered Dietitian

Emily McPhee, RD

It’s a fact of life for parents—kids love sweets! And it can be tough to say no—especially around special occasions (Birthday Cake!) and holidays (Trick or Treat!) when it seems sugar is everywhere. But the fact is that “added sugar” in everyday foods is the real problem. Studies show excess sugar consumption can increase the risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and dental cavities for kids.

Food labels are evolving to more accurately reflect the sugar in foods, but it can still be confusing.

Here are a few tips on spotting the sugar, and ways in which you can reduce your kids’ sugar intake without trading those treats.

Code Names for Sugar
Make sure you read the food labels. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day for kids ages 2-18 and children under two should have zero added sugar.

Added sugars in foods like bread, spaghetti sauce, granola bars, and cereals can be labeled as:

  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Sucrose
  • Maltose
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Maple syrup
     

Tips to Limit Added Sugar
Here are some easy, quick fixes to limit the sugar in your children's (and your) diet:

  • Choose water, 100% fruit juice, seltzer with a splash of fruit juice or low-fat milk instead of juice drinks, soda, and sports drinks. A can of Coke has 40 grams of sugar – nearly twice the daily recommendation.
     
  • Make popsicles out of 100% orange or apple juice.
     
  • Try a peanut butter and banana sandwich, instead of peanut butter and jelly. Commercial jelly is made from sugar, pectin, acid and fruit juice (not whole fruit).
     
  • Choose raisins or dried fruit with no added sugar over fruit snacks or rollups.
     
  • Heat up frozen berries to top off waffles and pancakes – the juice makes a great syrup substitute.
     
  • Try baked apples or pears with cinnamon for a warm sweet treat.
     

Limiting everyday sugar intake can give you and your kids enough flexibility to be able to enjoy a little Halloween candy or birthday cake without worrying about impacting a healthy lifestyle.