The American Heart Association (AHA) is now recommending that children between the age of two and 18 limit their consumption of added sugars to less than 25 grams per day, equivalent to about six teaspoons. The recommendations also state that added sugars can be safely consumed in low amounts as part of a healthy diet, but that intake should be reduced due to limited physical activity in most children and adolescents.
What does this mean for you as a parent? Drastic changes to your child’s diet may result in your child not eating enough or wasting food. However, there are easy ways to include sweet taste while also improving your child’s overall diet quality.
It’s particularly common at breakfast to add sugar to cereal or syrup to oatmeal, pancakes, or waffles. Rather than sugar, consider adding fresh, frozen, or dried fruits to cereals and oatmeal or a nut butter on waffles and pancakes. Another great option is to provide savory breakfast foods, such as scrambled eggs, with spinach and cheese wrapped in a tortilla or on an English muffin.
Give them a smoothie made with plain yogurt or plain milk blended with fruits and vegetables and some grains such as oatmeal to help boost their dairy intake. When looking at recipes, remember that portion size may need to be smaller for your child. Some children, especially those that are lactose intolerant, may prefer to eat cheese, which is a dairy option that is unsweetened.
Are you an on-the-go parent who stops at coffee shops or similar places? Be aware of the options at the counter. Check the menu as many of these shops now offer sandwiches and fresh fruit that have less calories and added sugar than sweet muffins and cookies found in the case. Kids may also enjoy a flavored iced tea or an Italian soda made with carbonated water and light flavored syrup rather than many of the sweeter options available.
Make sure they are bringing their uneaten food home so parents can adjust lunches based on what the child is actually eating.
Since not getting enough sleep can often lead to a preference for sweet tasting foods.
Encourage kids to exercise if they aren’t already.