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

Posted Feb 10 2009 10:59am
Today I'm pleased to have a guest post from Jenna atFood 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 Rockcites 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 listof 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: sweetenedwhole-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 ouryogurt 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 mysteel-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, (clickherefor 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 owngranola 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 brandby far isCascade Fresh. They're sweetened using fruit juice and are so delicious!

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