Most of us eat way more sugar than is recommended, but the amount kids eat is stunning. Here’s a list of the many sugars added to foods, and tips for cutting back.
Every day, our kids are at risk of going a teaspoon too far. Or, more accurately, 25.
As in so many teaspoons of sugar. Turns out, too much of the stuff that helps the medicine go down can cause plenty of ailments on its own, especially for our kids. A regular overload can cause tooth decay, obesity, type 2 diabetes and a suppressed immune system.
Sugar is a carbohydrate that provides calories your body uses as energy. It occurs naturally in veggies, fruits, some grains and milk. When we eat a cucumber or apple, we are consuming natural sugars.
Added sugars are simply those added to foods and drinks as they are processed or prepared. If you put a teaspoon of sugar in your tea, it is considered added sugar. These added sugars can be natural (such as fructose, from fruits) or processed (high-fructose corn syrup).
We’re Sweet on Sugar
Our taste buds love sugar, a little too much. A woman should eat no more than 24 grams or six teaspoons of sugar a day. A man should eat 36 grams, or nine teaspoons. Kids should have no more than five to seven teaspoons a day, depending on their age.
The reality: The average adult now consumes 22 teaspoons per day. Kids eat a whopping 32 teaspoons. The biggest culprits are soft drinks, candy and baked goods. Among the biggest benefactors: the tooth fairy.
A Gram of Change Equals a Pound of Wellness
Which is why U.S. Nutrition Facts labels are changing in 2018, for the first time in 20 years. Among the changes: Packages will have to list the amounts of added sugars in each serving.
As a result, some makers of cereals, snack foods and other processed foods are reformulating ingredients. Foods that do not include added sugars are not affected.
Taking Our Lumps: Added Sugars Hit List
Added sugars are listed in food ingredients today, but they aren’t that easy to identify or quantify. Also, added sugars can be found in unexpected places. Salad dressings, soups, breads and even hot dogs can include high-fructose corn syrup.
Following is an abbreviated list of common sugar additives. A more complete list can be found in a recent New York Times story.
Quick tip: Sugars are often measured in grams, and four grams equal one teaspoon.
- Agave (juice, syrup, sap or nectar)
- Brown sugar
- Corn syrup (high-fructose and otherwise)
- Fruit juice concentrates
- Golden syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt (sugar, syrup and sweetener)
- Rice syrup
- Sugar beet
- Sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
- Tru sweet
Tips for Cutting Back
Don’t be daunted by the list. There are easy ways to get around added sugar. Rather than soft drinks, try fizzy water with fresh fruit juice. Instead of sugary cereals, choose Cheerios with fruit. And just say no to sweetened yogurt. Flavor plain yogurt with fresh fruit, vanilla extract, nutmeg or cinnamon.
And don’t forget that a lot of veggies carry natural sugars, for low-calorie, highly nutritious snacks. Carrots, baby cucumbers and snap peas are all easy-to-carry kid treats. Add an all-natural dip or veggie pleaser if your kids need coaxing.
And if you ever feel tempted by the packaging, just remember that one muffin can contain about nine teaspoons of sugar.