Children ages 2 to 18 should only get six teaspoons or less of added sugars daily, and toddlers below 2 years old should not get any added sugars in their diet including sugar-sweetened drinks, says new recommendations from the American Heart Association (AHA), with a statement published in the journal Circulation.
The researchers say children should only drink eight ounces (or about 237mL) of sugar-sweetened drinks in a week. Based on these recommendations, your preschooler can only have two sugar-sweetened chocolate milk drinks, like those sold in tetrapacks at 110mL, in a week. Your teenager is advised to drink a 300mL bottle of soda, like the one you get at sari-sari stores for P10, once a week.
“How much sugar is okay 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.” said Dr. Miriam Vos, lead author, nutrition scientist and associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine in the U.S.
“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. Vos. “For most children, eating no more than six teaspoons of added sugars per day is a healthy and achievable target.”
The recommendations are based on 100 previous studies on the cardiovascular health effects of added sugars on children. Researchers also analysed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey done in the U.S. and concluded that children are currently consuming more than the 6-teaspoons-or-less recommendation, on average.
Children below 2, on the other hand, do not need the added sugar in their diet as they have lower calorie needs compared to older children and adults. “There is little room for food and beverages containing added sugars that don’t provide them with good nutrition,” read the press release. “In addition, taste preferences begin early in life, so limiting added sugars may help children develop a life-long preference for healthier foods.”
So, what exactly is added sugar? Table sugar, fructose (sugar found in processed food packets), and honey are all added sugar. Added sugar are any sugars added to foods at the table or eaten separately. Some foods that contain added sugar are cookies, candy, cakes, ice cream, soft drinks and sweetened juice drinks.
Some types of cereal are high in sugar as well, Dr. Vos told CNN. “A bowl of cereal can range from 1 gram to 12 or more grams, depending on the brand.” To Dr. Vos, a healthy, low added-sugar breakfast consists of: whole grain cereal, a piece of fruit and a glass of low-fat milk. Again, the type of cereal matters--cereal marketed at kids are especially sugar loaded.
Ready to eat healthier? For food recommendations for children on junk foods like fries and potato chips, check out this article.