What Parents Need to Know this Holiday Season
By Sandi Schwartz
With Halloween and the holidays around the corner, it is important for parents to understand how sugar can affect their children and what they can do to keep treats to a minimum.
Refined white sugar contains over 99.9 percent sucrose, and has no nutritional value like vitamins, minerals, protein or fiber. Sugar is typically added to foods during processing, preparation or at the table during meal times. Typical “junk foods” that are high in sugar include soda, cookies, cake, candy, and frozen desserts. However, many brands of children’s favorite foods
Unfortunately, recent studies show that children are consuming too much sugar. The American Heart Association (AHA) found children as young as 1 to 3 years old consuming around 12 teaspoons of sugar per day. By the time a child is 4 to 8 years old, sugar consumption jumps to an average of 21 teaspoons a day. These amounts are way above the recommended intake of sugar.
In August 2009, AHA released new recommendations for children’s consumption of sugar:
Preschoolers with a daily caloric intake of 1,200 to 1,400 calories should not consume more than 170 calories, or about 4 teaspoons, of added sugar a day.
Children ages 4 to 8 with a daily caloric intake of 1,600 calories should consume no more than 130 calories, or about 3 teaspoons a day.
Pre-teens with a daily caloric range of 1,800 to 2,000 should consume no more than 5 to 8 teaspoons of sugar per day.
Parents can take the following steps to limit the amount of sugar in their child’s diet:
Provide a healthy diet rich in fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, high-fiber whole grains, lean meat, poultry and fish.
Offer naturally sweet and healthy snacks like fresh and dried fruit.
Replace soda and sweetened beverages with low-fat milk (whole milk for children under 2) or water.
Offer only small servings of 100 percent fruit juice. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting juice intake to 4 to 6 ounces for children under 7, and 8 to 12 ounces for older children.