Our kids are eating too much added sugar!
Last month, the American Heart Association (AHA) released a scientific statement about daily recommendations of added sugars for children. Vermont Edition had a show on Monday August 29, that covered the study, and the conclusion of the study. The conclusion of the study states that the current levels of added sugar consumption are still leading to cardiovascular diseases. The AHA is therefore recommending a lower consumption of added sugar for kids 2-18 (less than 25g), and no added sugar for children under 2 .
If you are like me, these numbers don't mean much. What are added sugar? How much is 25 g, anyway? And what does a typical menu for a child looks like, if you limit that consumption to the recommended amount? It can all become pretty confusing, especially because, although the nutrition facts on products need to display the amount of carbs (and sugars), it doesn't differentiate the type of sugars you are consuming.
Added sugar is sugar that is added to processed food (homemade or bought). It can be processed sugar (high fructose corn syrup) or natural sugars (fructose). Added sugars don't include sugars found in fruits, it is just the sugar you add to food. For example, a fruit salad doesn't contain added sugar, unless you add sugar (honey, maple syrup, agave, etc.) or buy fruits in syrup.
Now, how much is 25 g of sugar? It is about 6 teaspoon of sugar. How much teaspoons of added sugar does a typical american kip consume? About 20 teaspoons. That is more than double the recommended amount by the AHA. Again, these numbers are nice and helpful, but because I usually don't feed maple syrup or honey or sugar by the teaspoon to my child, these numbers don't mean much to me.
Today, I fed my child a typical menu we would give him on a daily basis. I weighted all of his food, to have an accurate idea of how much added sugar we would give our almost 6 year old boy. We are very aware of what our kid eats, because he has type 1 diabetes. Therefore, measuring his food is something I do anyway.
Breakfast: a slice of whole wheat bread, 15 g of low sugar homemade jam, one glass of milk, an apple: 7 g of added sugar.
Lunch: whole wheat pasta with ratatouille sauce, grapes, greek pineapple yogurt: 13 g of added sugar
Summer Supper: 0g of c
Supper: tortilla chips with eggs, cucumber, za'atar dip, fresh fruits: 0g of added sugar
Morning snack: Peanuts, greek raspberry yoghurt: 13 g of added sugar
Afternoon snack: Apple: 0g of added sugar
A very normal, no-cake-no-juice day, and my child is over the recommended amount by 8 g. And my child is 5, I can't imagine feeding him this same menu when he will be 16.
I understand the need to recommend to parents to stay under a certain amount of added sugar, because the recent study the AHA conducted show that going above this amount leads to health issues later in life. But it is not enough to only recommend to parents to decrease the amount of sugar that the kids eat. Could we also ban sodas in schools? Could we ban the advertisement of sweets to kids? Could we force companies to label the amount of added sugar in their products? I doubt that any of these will ever happen. The soda tax for example took years to implement in some states, due to lobbying from the beverage industry.
Instead, we continue to blame the parents. Even though, as I have shown with our typical menu, it is very difficult to follow these very rigorous guidelines.
If the AHA is serious about decreasing the amount of added sugar our kids eat everyday, they need to provide us with real solutions, petitions, calls to lawmakers, and advertisements as aggressive as those from the processed food industry.
Some common items that are given to kids:
Can of coke: 39 g, Juice box: average, 27g!, popsicles: 10g, birthday cupcakes parents bring in at school for celebrations: 45g!