Cutting Back on Kids' Sugar

We all know that too much sugar isn’t good for anyone, right? But the problem of too much sugar is especially tough for kids, since they don’t always understand why they should limit sweets. When you start to add up the teaspoons of sugar in all of the foods and drinks that your kids consume each day, you might be really surprised. Teach children how important it is to limit the amount of sugar they take in each day. As parents, we don’t always know when our kids are getting sugar outside of the home, but there are some things we can do to help our kids cut back.

In the Classroom and After School
Find out what your child’s school wellness policy says about sweet treats in the classroom.  Many schools are now limiting  birthday cupcakes that come into the classroom.   Teachers may also be rewarding children with non-food items instead of sugary treats.  If your child is involved in after-school activities, see what snacks and drinks that you child is being given.  

Mealtime at School
If your child eats school breakfasts and lunches, they are enjoying meals with limited sugar—fruit in natural or light juices, 100% juice and milk as healthy beverage choices, desserts that are often fresh fruit or milk-rich pudding. 

If you are sending your child with boxed lunches, you can control how much sugar they eat by following the same rules as school meals: Send bottled water or 100% juice (look on the nutrition facts label on the package and be sure it says “100% fruit juice”). Don’t send candy or baked goods as dessert—a piece of fresh fruit is a much healthier sweet treat.

Sugar in Drinks
Most schools limit students’ exposure to soft drink machines, but be sure your child understands your own rules about limiting sodas, which can have more than 15 teaspoons of sugar in a 20-ounce bottle! Remember this simple conversion: Every 4 grams of sugar equal 1 teaspoon of sugar. If you don’t have sugary drinks at home, you’ll spare your child a lot of extra sugar.

Snacks at Home
When the kids get home from school, they look for something quick and easy to eat. This is your chance to give them more fruits and veggies! Wash fresh fruit or have canned fruit (in light or natural juices) available. Wash and cut fresh veggies and serve them with hummus or salsa. Or, buy whole grain crackers and low-fat cheese for them to snack on. Limit the candy and baked sweets that you have in the house and the kids will enjoy healthier snacks without missing a beat!

Meals at Home
Sugar is added to a lot of foods that we don’t even think about. While the amount might seem small in any single food, it can add up over time. Remember the conversion in the Sugar in Drinks section? Apply that to what you read on the nutrition facts labels of foods like breakfast cereal, toaster pastries, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, etc.


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© Eat Smart, Be Fit Maryland!Maira Gall