If you've ever been unsure of how much sugar you should be allowing in your child's diet, this new information makes it startlingly clear.
According to new recommendations from the American Heart Association, it isn't enough to just try and cut back on the sugar your kid eats. They say that children between the ages of two and 18 should not consume more than six teaspoons of sugar per day and taking this limit seriously is "an important public health target."
While it may have been unclear in the past exactly how much sugar is OK for your child, this new limit equates to about 100 calories, or 25 grams. The recommendations, which were published in the journal Circulation, explain the long-term impact that overindulging in sugar as a child can have later in life.
"A diet high in added sugars is strongly associated with weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, abnormal cholesterol, and fatty liver disease in children and all of these increase future cardiovascular risk," said Dr. Miriam Vos, the paper's lead author.
Vos, who is an associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, hopes that this guideline helps parents by providing them with an achievable goal. "How much sugar is OK for kids has been a confusing issue for parents and this statement provides a target that parents can understand and that will make a huge difference for the health of children."
Before parents can make any necessary changes to their child's diet, it's essential for them to realize just what six teaspoons of added sugar actually is — and which foods won't bust that limit.
"A plain whole grain bagel with cream cheese can have no added sugar while a frosted doughnut has 23 grams of added sugar," Vos said. "A bowl of cereal can range from one gram to 12 or more grams, depending on the brand. One soda typically has 33 grams. A healthy breakfast of a low added-sugar, whole-grain cereal with a piece of fruit and a glass of low-fat milk would have about one gram of added sugar, [but] varies by the cereal."
It is also equally important to understand that added sugar is different from naturally occurring sugar, like those found in fruits. This can be especially confusing because while nutrition labels account for both, parents need to realize how they differ and what the six-teaspoon recommendation is specifically referring to. Any sugar that is used in processed food or drinks, including table sugar, fructose, or honey, is considered added sugar.