Sugar and Toddlers
Admittedly, prior to having Berlin, I paid little, to no attention to the amount of sugar in my food. I would look at the fat or protein content rather than check out the possibly high amount of sugar lurking in my food. Honestly, I figured, since I didn’t eat candy bars or drink soda, my daily sugar intake must be at a healthy level. But once I began the journey of feeding solids to Berlin, I realized I was sorely mistaken and the amount of sugar I was ingesting as a relatively healthy individual was shocking.
It wasn’t until I began reading nutrition labels more closely and understanding the amount of sugar in my food, that I discovered, by noon on any given day, I was easily downing nearly 35 grams (or 9 teaspoons) of sugar (and that only included eating one Clif Bar and drinking a homemade fruit smoothie). I sadly assumed that companies, like Clif Bar, that touted healthy living, with a belief in organic and sustainable living, were making products that were nutritious and low on simple sugars. But reality is, these bars are no healthier than a chocolate bar. In fact, the Carrot Cake bar I tricked myself into thinking was healthy, was giving me a whopping 25 grams of sugar in one serving. That is more than a Hershey’s chocolate bar by a surprising 6 grams. Shocking, right?!
Once I made this realization, I really started investigating the amount of sugar in the everyday food items I was buying for Berlin. I also began researching the scary truth about sugar’s effect on toddlers, and the actual amount of sugar that is healthy for a toddler to be ingesting per a daily basis. What I discovered was that although I am one of the more strict parents when it comes to Berlin’s diet, she too, was eating far too much sugar.
So what is a healthy amount of sugar for our toddlers to be ingesting? According to the American Heart Association, preschool age children eating a 1000 calorie diet, should be eating no more than 3 teaspoons, or 12 grams of sugar per day. The shocking reality is that toddlers are far surpassing that number, and according to the AHA are eating on average nearly 12 teaspoons (or 48 grams) of sugar daily. If you stop to think about it, that is really rather gross. Imagine taking 12 teaspoons and pouring it into your toddlers food each day, doubt you could do it with a good conscience.
So now that you know what the recommended intake is, lets look at the sugar content per serving in some of the foods toddlers are eating on a daily basis:
Stonyfield’s yoBaby organic yogurt: 13 grams
GoGo Applesauce Squeeze: 12 grams
Trader Joe’s Organic Probiotic Yogurt Smoothie: 23 grams
Happy Tot Organic fruit packets: 15-20 grams
Earth’s Best Instant Oatmeal: 8 grams
Sprout Organic Fruit Snacks: 13 grams
Nature’s Path Organic Koala Crip Cereal: 11 grams
Nature’s Path Organic Chocolate Crisp Bars: 8 grams
Plum Organics Jammy Sammy cereal bar: 11 grams
What is really sad, is that all of the above mentioned foods are organic and supposedly “healthy” brands. If you’re like me, you assume that organic products, made specifically for children, are nutritious options for your toddler. But most of these options supply your toddler with a full day’s amount of recommended sugar in just one serving.
Now lets discuss one of the biggest culprits of “through the roof” sugar levels, that are touted as a healthy option for our children, 100% juice boxes. I would say its safe to say that nearly half of children drink these on a daily basis, and I would assume that most parents think that its providing their children with the healthy nutrients that are needed each day. But in actuality, its like handing them a glass full of sugar with a bunch of unnecessary calories. To better understand this, let’s look at how juice is made. On average, it takes 3-4 medium apples to make one 8 ounce box of apple juice. Each apple has approximately 25 grams of sugar and 5 grams of healthy, much-needed fiber. The issue is, in the process of juicing, the cell walls are broken down and the fiber is eliminated, and fiber is what is needed to slow the metabolization of sugar and make you feel full. Therefore the body metabolizes the juice just the same as a sugar laden soda, wrecking havoc on your liver, and leaving you feeling hungry.
So now that you are throughly frightened, you should understand what to look for when purchasing foods for your little one. Here are the few names that sugar is hidden in:
- High Fructose corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Maple Syrup
- Cane sugar
- Rice syrup
- Anything with an “so” ending; dextrose, fructose, glucose
So how do we keep the sugar content down when its lurking everywhere? My best suggestion is to be mindful of food labels, anything with less than 5 grams of sugar is a safe bet. Serve plain, whole fat yogurt instead of fruit flavored (you can always jazz it up with some granola or whole fruit), serve whole foods; fruits, veggies and whole grains. Eliminate all empty calorie food options; juice boxes, high sugar cereals, fruit bars…and offer only water, milk or a homemade smoothie as a beverage option. Lastly, never buy anything with sugar being the number one ingredient listed on the package.
Of course, we can’t be perfect all the time. So just remember moderation is key. If your chid enjoys a high sugar fruit bar that day, watch what they eat the rest of the day. Be completley mindful of your child’s diet, you are in control of their health and are setting up their eating habits for life.