9 FAQs about Sugar Intake and Kids Answered by Nutritionist
Below are some of the frequently asked questions that parents are concerned about when it comes to sugar intake of kids. Nutritionist Somy Mary Mathew answers them here for you.
1. How much is too much when it comes to sugar intake for my kids?
Children between 2-18 years of age should have less than 25 g of added sugar or 6 teaspoons a day. Serve water and milk, sports drinks, sweet tea, sweetened coffee and fruit beverages instead of soda. Avoid serving children under 2 years of age; food or drinks with added sugar.
2. Is it harmful to sweeten my toddler's meals with sugar since she prefers it over savoury dishes?
Yes, it is best to not include sugar in meals of kids younger than 2 years old. You can go for safer choices such as adding jaggery, palm jaggery, fresh fruits as the ingredients, if you have to sweeten it.
3. My child is not overweight, so why should I worry about sugar consumption?
Excess sugar intake during childhood has been corelated with the potential problems associated with higher body mass index (BMI) in the future. High intake of sugar increases the risk, particularly as we get older, of obesity and chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. In addition, excessive weight risks in future are likely with joint pain, gout and liver fatty disease.
4. Does sugar make my kids hyperactive?
No, many studies have shown that the behavior of children is not influenced by sugar. The blood sugar can be boosted by consuming a sugar-filled drink as someone with low blood sugar concentrations can obtain an energy boost.
5. How do I know if a juice or breakfast cereal is loaded with sugar?
The ingredients are usually listed in the order of the greatest amount first, followed in descending order by those in smaller amounts. Hence, if you find sugar or any of its derivatives among the first 3 ingredients, then definitely be assured that it is loaded with sugar.
6. My daughter loves to drink soda whenever we eat out. Is even a once a week indulgence too harmful for him?
It's appropriate for a kid to have soft drinks occasionally, of course, but definitely not every day/week. Even non soda drinks such as lemonade, fruit punch and fruit juices should be restricted.
7. Are artificial sweeteners ok for kids?
Nowadays artificial sweeteners are found in various food products like fruit juices, jams, cookies, yogurt, processed and canned food, flavored cereals, soft drinks etc. However, with chemically sweetened foods and beverages, note that many of these are not necessarily the healthiest options. Artificial sweetener can cause gastrointestinal and neurological issues. So do limit the intake of products that list artificial sweeteners as one their ingredients.
Ensure that you provide children with a wide range of fruits to fulfil their sweet cravings. For example, try sweetened plain yoghurt or cereals with berries and chopped fruit. Make a homemade trail mixture with a mix of dried fruits, nuts, seeds.
Phenylalanine, an amino acid in aspartame, cannot be metabolized by people with Phenylketonuria. So it is advisable to keep aspartame away.
8. What are some suitable alternatives to sugary snacks?
You can go for healthier options like fresh fruits, dried fruits, frozen fruits, fruits fingers, fruits cup with honey, fruit chips, fruit ice creams, smoothies etc.
9. How should I be vigilant about products that are hidden sources of sugar in my kid's diet?
Going for home-built options is always good. The most important thing is to check on the nutritional label when purchasing and eating a packed product.
Definitely stay away from the so called healthy breakfast cereals, health bars and fruit juices which have sugar listed in different fancy names like liquid glucose, dextrose, invert sugar syrup, corn syrup, fructose etc.
Do write to us in case of any further questions that you may have regarding sugar intake and your kids.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Somy Mary Mathew, MSc Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics
Somy is a nutritionist who is currently pursuing Ph.D in Food Science and technology. She has over 15+ years of experience as a nutritionist and dietician in various hospitals across India. She has also worked as the Consultant Nutritionist for pediatric patients.