Today I would like to discuss something most of us know and love. Something that our bodies need, but that most of us get too much of. Something that can sabotage even the most savvy parent. It can hide where you wouldn’t think to look for it, and it can dress its self up to look so irresistible, you can not resist its siren call. I’m talking about sugar. We are all born with a preference for it. It is the brain’s preferred fuel. The problem is, according to the USDA economic service, the average child under 12 eats 49 pounds of added sugar per year. The average adult eats 46. There are many reasons to avoid extra sugar in the diet.
One of these reasons is Dental Caries (cavities). Bacteria like to eat sugar, too. When there is excess in your mouth, bacteria are given an environment in which they can thrive. They grow and multiply on the tooth’s surface, causing decay of the enamel.
Increased risk of obesity is another outcome of increased sugar intake we’d like to avoid. Amongst other conditions, obesity increases risk of diabetes, heart and cardiovascular disease.
In general, people are aware of these risks and understand that they need to limit the amount of sugar in their own diets, as well as the diets of their children.
Why is the amount of sugar consumed still so high? One reason could be, even if we read the label, we may not know what we’re looking for. Nutrition labels measure sugar in grams. This is hard to visualize. Remember 4 grams is about a teaspoon. This means that a can of coke, with about 39 grams of sugar has 9.75 teaspoons of sugar. Another problem with nutrition labels is that one may not know the many names that sugar can go by. Here are a few common ones to look out for.
Some other tips to find sugar in your diet and lower your child’s consumption of it:
Look at beverages: Soda is a fairly obvious place to look for sugar, but many other drinks including juice, sports, and other energy drinks claiming to be healthy also contain LOTS of sugar.
Limit portion sizes of dessert: If you are going to serve a sweet treat, put it in a small bowl, plate, or glass instead of a larger one.
Try not to make it a fight. Instead of banning completely, which may encourage binging when it is available, Suggest mixing 1/4 of their favorite sugary cereal with a whole grain one with no sugar.
Avoid processed foods. Many processed foods have a lot of added sugar. Check the labels on your condiments, flavored instant oatmeal, peanut butter and yogurt. All of these seemingly healthy items can contain a lot of added sugar if you aren’t aware of what you are purchasing.
Some items to avoid and substitutes you may want to try.
Sugar is definitely something that most of us need to try to limit in our diets. It is especially important to teach our kids from a young age what may have a lot of sugar, and why we avoid it while not totally banning it, as this may encourage binging when it’s provided as a treat, or at a special occasion.