It’s not smart to feed your kids a ton of sugar, parents know this. But according to the American Heart Association, children ages 2-18 should consume less than 25 grams (that’s six teaspoons) of added sugar a day. More than that, and you’re inviting health problems. Here are five ways sugar affects kids that are detrimental to their health.
Masquerades as Colds and Allergies
Have you been concerned your child is getting sick more often? Do you notice them having cold or allergy symptoms throughout the year? It could be a sign your child is eating too much sugar.
Sugar promotes inflammation, which results in mucus build-up, causing runny nose and coughs. It also signals the immune system to work harder, weakening it and leaving your child susceptible to illness.
Causes Nutritional Deficiencies and Obesity
Foods high in sugar are also high in calories, but fall short when it comes to nutritional value. Fruit juices (which are not a replacement for real fruit), soda
On top of the high-calorie content, sugar also causes insulin and blood sugar to spike, which can
Presents as Croup or Acid Reflux
Some children have recurrent symptoms of what appears to be croup, an infection of the upper airway that causes a characteristic barking cough. Dairy-based products like chocolate milk or ice cream can cause this, especially if too much is consumed and too often. The combination of sugar and dairy (which often contains added sugars) takes a long time to digest and is acidic, which means it could come back through the esophagus. When it passes by the vocal cords, it causes laryngospasm, resulting in barking coughs.
Increases Tooth Decay and Bad Breath
You’ve heard it before, and it’s not a myth; sugar can increase tooth decay. Oral bacteria love sugar. The bacteria multiplies and releases acid, which can cause bad breath. As the sugar breaks down, so does tooth enamel, causing cavities. The increased yeast growth can also make the tongue and mouth red and cause sensitivity to spicy foods.
Creates Long-Term Health Issues
Although there may not be apparent issues now, over time sugar can cause issues in adulthood. It puts a person at risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a greater risk for diabetes. Children who overeat sugar develop problems in elementary school instead of middle age and advanced stages of heart disease also occur earlier. When combined with weight gain, this increases the risk of heart attack and stroke at an early age.
Tips to Slash Sugar
Even if your child doesn’t show signs of eating too much sugar, cutting down is still beneficial. There are some simple ways to do this that don’t require overhauling a child’s regular diet.
- Replace fruit juice with whole fruit. The liquid has no fiber and very little nutritional value. Plus, a typical juice pouch contains 22 grams of sugar, even if it says “no sugar added.”
- Read product labels. From instant oatmeal and cereal to salad dressing and pasta sauce, a lot of pre-packaged foods contain high amounts of sugar. If you see high sugar levels, consider buying fewer prepared foods and making more meals at home. Whipping up oatmeal from scratch or salad dressings using lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper are great alternatives.
- Replace ice cream with frozen Greek yogurt. You can even make your own version of an ice cream bar by using molds and adding berries.
- When they need hydration, give your kids water instead of orange juice or sports drinks.
- Teach your children how to eat healthily. Experiment with whole foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Implement small, incremental changes to your child’s diet to make it easier for them. Try giving them fewer cookies and more fruit. Bright colored veggies cut into kid-friendly pieces are popular. Finger-food sizes are more likely to be a hit than plain old steamed vegetables at dinner.
Making healthy eating fun can lead to positive changes that will benefit them throughout their lives.