Parents must work harder than ever before to provide the same level of care for their children as generations before. The income gap in society means that, for the most part, both parents have to work, meaning that less time is spent together as a family. Because of the necessity of career focus, many parents find it hard to plan healthy, home cooked meals, leading to the purchase of fast food or other overly processed options, many of which have a tremendous amount of added sugar, increasing the intake of daily sugar for kids. The remainder of this article will focus on the average sugar intake of children in America, the problem with such overconsumption, and how to combat the trend and get back to recommended limits.
Sugar Intake & Kids
The National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey on the diets of American children estimates that children consume about 13 teaspoons of sugar daily and teens about 22 teaspoons. That means on average young people are eating more than three times the recommended daily amounts of sugar. The maximum sugar intake child should be no more than six teaspoons, depending on age.
Kids are not to blame for their increased sugar intake, and, in some respects, neither are parents. The food industry does not exactly make it easy for a parent to know how much sugar is in the food they give to their children. Did you know there are over 50 different names for sugar, and it changes depending on the type of sugar and how a company processes it? Modern processes make it nearly impossible to avoid sugar when eating convenience foods.
How Too Much Sugar Affects Children's Behavior
While the assumption is that children can experience a sugar-high, experiencing spurts of hyperactivity and disobedience, the reality is much calmer. Most studies have not conclusively proven a connection between hyperactivity and sugar intake. While some research suggests that sugar can affect some children's behavior, it is not a universal effect.
The primary concern with sugar consumption is the effects on health. Children who become accustomed to sugary foods as rewards or simply meals likely continue this unhealthy habit into adulthood, putting them at greater risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood sugar, and many other potentially life-threatening conditions. It is best, then, that children learn about healthy diet and control while they are young and more susceptible to such information, leading to the pursuit of lifelong health.
What Is the Recommended Daily Sugar Intake
The American Heart Association says the sugar recommended daily intake child is up to six teaspoons of added sugar for children and teens between two and 18 years old. Children under two should have no added sugar in their diets.
Six teaspoons can sound a little drastic, especially if your teenager is used to consuming 22 or more, but it is not impossible and it is healthy. The first thing willing parents need to do is stop buying overly processed foods and learn how to read the nutritional labels of products. Second, increase the number of fresh food options in the home.
Many parents use food as a reward for good behavior, like giving a sweet for taking out the trash. Instead of using unhealthy foods as rewards, consider a positive activity or experience. For example, if your child does their chores for the day, take them to the park or play a video game with them, something they enjoy.
None of this means your child can't enjoy the occasional sweet; it only means that you need to adjust their view of sugar as desirable. By altering reward behaviors and limiting access, your child gains a responsible view of sugar and stays healthy. While sugar should be limited, do not forget about ensuring your child gets the vital nutrients they need through children’s supplements, like those found at Wellements.