News & Events

How to Avoid Added Sugar In Family Diet

January 24, 2017

Recently I was asked by a parent how to eliminate hidden sugar from her family’s diet.  It’s a great question and an important step to good health.

“Hidden sugar” or “added sugar” is any caloric sweetener that does not occur naturally in a food or beverage such as: sucrose, fructose, dextrose, honey, molasses, and brown rice syrup. A little bit of added sugar is OK but there isn’t much room for it in your child’s diet. If foods with added sugar displace healthier options your child could experience weight gain, low HDL (good cholesterol) and elevated triglycerides — all risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.

The most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) revealed that young children in America are consuming on average 13 teaspoons of added sugar a day and teens are consuming 22 teaspoons —two to three times more sugar than the latest American Heart Association guidelines listed below. 

Children ages 2-18 should consume no more than six teaspoons of added sugar a day. This is about 25 grams, or 100 calories.

  1. Children less than two years old should have no added sugar in their diet.
  2. Children and teens should limit sugar-sweetened beverages to one 8-ounce beverage a week. This includes sodas, sports and energy drinks, sweetened tea and fruit-flavored drinks that are not 100 percent juice.

Some important foods to watch are: juice, flavored yogurts, non-dairy milks, cereals, frozen dinners, sauces, and salad dressings. Rice milk contains 10 grams of added sugar, a frozen dinner can have 30 or more grams and there are about 12 grams in just two tablespoons of BBQ sauce.

Tips to reduce sugar include:

  • In general, you can use “sugars” on the nutrition facts panel  to determine which products have the least amount of added sugar unless there is natural sugar from whole fruit or dairy.
  • There are 12 grams of naturally occurring lactose sugar in 8-ounces of dairy milk or yogurt so subtract 12 grams from “sugars” to determine how much added sugar the product has.
  • Offer whole food alternatives to pre-packaged snacks such as: low-fat plain yogurt with fruit, trail mix, fresh fruit and vegetables with dip, and low-fat cheese with whole-grain crackers.
  • Talk with an older child about the health benefits of water and milk. Encourage your children to drink milk by blending it with frozen fruit to make a nutritious alternative to sweetened beverages, juice, or ice cream.

Brenda Viens is a registered dietitian at Backus Hospital and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. Have a question for Brenda? Email her at [email protected].