INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The American Heart Association says parents need to drastically reduce the amount of added sugar kids are eating and that too much added sugar can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, even diabetes for children.
Experts recommend, kids two to 18 years old should only be eating six teaspoons of added sugar a day. That’s about 100 calories or 25 grams. For kids under two, they shouldn’t have any at all. Currently, the average child consumes about three times the recommended amount of added sugars, according to the American Heart Association.
According to the new guidelines, kids who are eating too many foods with added sugar are not eating enough healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean meats, which is what the bulk of their diet should be.
Estimated calories needed by children range from 1,000 a day for a sedentary 2-year-old to 2,400 for an active 14 to 18-year-old girl and 3,200 for an active 16 to 18-year-old boy.
“If your child is eating the right amount of calories to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight, there isn’t much room in their food “budget” for low-value junk foods, which is where most added sugars are found,” said Miriam Vos, M.D., Ms.P.H, lead author, nutrition scientist and associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia in a release.
It can be hard to differentiate between natural and added sugars. Some of the big sugar offenders are sweet cereals, cereal bars, cookies, cakes, and even yogurt. Sweetened drinks like soda, fruit-flavored and sports drinks, sweetened teas, and even energy drinks should be avoided too.
Starting in July 2018, food makers will be required to list the amount of added sugars on the Nutrition Facts Panel, making it easier to follow these recommendations.
Until then, parents should understand that added sugar is anything used in the processing or preparing of foods, like table sugar, fructose, or honey. That includes anything added to foods too at the table or eaten separately.