As parents, we all worry about giving our kids too much sugar. But do you know where sugar lurks? Food that you may think is healthy could have too much of the stuff in it. With diabetes on the rise and kids getting more and more obese (and as my daughter chugs her third Danimal of the day), I wonder how much sugar is too much. It’s a scary thought. Breezy Mama turned to the dieticians* at Nemours for help on defining what sugar is good, what sugar is bad, and the definition of too much sugar.
When we’re talking about “too much sugar,” is this the same sugar we use for baking?
The sugar used for baking is called sucrose. This is the sugar that we eat too much. We don’t worry about the sugar that occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables or unflavored milk. Check food labels for sugar and choose foods that contain less added sugar.
Is sugar in fruit just as bad as sugar in candy?
Fruit contains fiber and many nutrients that are needed for a healthy diet. Candy does not contain these nutrients and should be eaten in limited amounts.
What types of food (that a parent may not normally think of) contain sugar?
Foods that contain hidden sugar include sugar-sweetened cereals, some granola bars, muffins, yogurts and sugar-containing frozen treats. Check food labels for the sugar content of beverages like flavored milk, fruit drinks, flavored waters, sport drinks, Kool-Aid, Capri Sun, sodas, lemonade, sweet teas and coffees.
What should we be looking for when reading nutritional labels?
Check food labels for sugar – 1 teaspoon contains 5 grams of sugar. For example, a soda that contains 40 grams of sugar is equal to 8 teaspoons of sugar. Check food labels and choose foods higher in fiber, lower in sodium and sugar. Check ingredients and choose starches that list the first ingredient as a whole grain, and avoid foods that contain partially hydrogenated fats.
Is there a certain food that kids eat all the time that we need to scale back on because of sugar content? I’m thinking of all the “Go-Gurts” and “Danimals” that my daughter is constantly having…
Check food labels for sugar – choose yogurts that contain 10-20 grams of sugar rather than yogurts that contain 30-40 grams of sugar in a 1 cup serving. Children younger than 8-years-old need 2-3 servings of dairy per day. Children over 8 need 3 servings of dairy per day. Choose lower-sugar cereals, muffins, granola bars and beverages. Check the food label and compare products.
I’ve heard that a large glass of OJ contains the same amount of sugar as a cheeseburger. Does this mean that the OJ isn’t healthier?
Orange juice contains natural sugar and in addition provides essential vitamins. We recommend no more than one, 4-6 ounce serving of 100% fruit juice per day. A cheeseburger does not contain sugar but does contain fat. Some cheeseburgers are high in saturated fats. We recommend lean ground beef, and reduced fat, natural cheese when preparing a cheeseburger. Add lots of lettuce and tomato, and serve on a whole-grain bun.
What’s the connection between sugar and fiber? I’ve read that you need the fiber to break down the sugar – so the sugar in a fresh apple isn’t as bad as the sugar in juice. Is this true?
Try to choose foods lower in sugar and higher in fiber. Foods that contain sugar and fiber include fresh fruits and vegetables. Try to include at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruits each day. Fiber does not break down sugar, but fiber can slow down the release of sugar into the blood. Sugar in an apple is wrapped in dietary fiber, and the fiber slows the release of sugar into the blood. Apple juice has no fiber and the sugar is quickly released into the blood causing a spike in blood sugar. Choose higher-fiber fruits and vegetables more often.
I always make homemade fruit smoothies with fresh fruit, a couple spoonfuls of yogurt and about a half a cup of juice. I always thought these were healthy, but does a snack like this contain too much sugar as well?
Smoothies containing whole fruit, lower-sugar yogurt and a small amount of 100% fruit juice can be part of a healthy diet.
What are thoughts on the new sugar alternatives (Stevia, Splenda, Agave)? Are these okay to give to children?
Stevia and Splenda are sugar substitutes and should be used in moderation. Stevia is made from the leaf of the stevia plant. Splenda is an artificial sugar substitute. Agave contains as much sugar as sucrose or regular sugar and should be used in moderation.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Always get nutrition information from a Registered Dietitian.
*Responses prepared by Nemours dietitians Carol Mellen, MS, RD, LD/N; Suzanne Sheres, MMSc, RD, LD/N, CDE; and Corissa Schroeder, dietetic intern.
About Nemours: Nemours is an internationally recognized children’s health system that owns and operates the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware along with major pediatric specialty clinics in Delaware, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. In 2012, it will open the full-service Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Florida.
Established as The Nemours Foundation through the legacy and philanthropy of Alfred I. du Pont, Nemours offers pediatric clinical care, research, education, advocacy and prevention programs to all families in the communities it serves.
For more information, visit www.nemours.org.Pin It