Last week we shocked you with the “added sugar” recommended limits for kids- 12 grams/day. Yikes! It’s easy to see how some of our foods can contribute two and three times that daily recommended limit.
Well, if you think the foods we eat are bad, you’re in for another shocker when you see the sugar in the drinks we consume.
It’s easy to see why obesity is so prevalent in our society. One bottle of Mountain Dew has 6 times the daily sugar recommendations, not to mention the foods we’re consuming throughout the day to further add to the totals.
This is one of the most important areas that we, as parents, can focus on to really help our children.
If you’re overwhelmed and confused about what’s acceptable to drink, here are a few tips to help you on your next trip to the store.
One important note: these rules should apply to the entire family. We can’t expect our kids to make a change when we’re still indulging in our sweet drinks.
- Water,Water, Water. The largest source of sugar comes from our drinks, even those that contain nutrients like Vitamin C. Buy a trendy thermos, make flavored ice cubes, purchase mini bottles…do whatever it takes to get your family drinking water.
- 4 ounces of juice per day. Yep, that’s it. The great news though, is that you can count any sugar coming from a 4-oz serving of 100% juice as a freebie since it can count as one serving of fruit for the day. Even for this serving of juice, look for juice that’s lower in sugar, which is usually orange juice.
- Choose 100% juice. So look for small juice boxes that contain 100% juice.
- Use water (not sports drinks) for hydration. For older & more active kids, it’s important that they know that water is sufficient to keep the body hydrated. Sports drinks are only necessary when a person is engaging in continuous (non-stop) vigorous physical activity for more than one hour. Running and cycling are good examples of continuous, vigorous physical activity. Most children do not exercise at this level. Even little league soccer and football do not count as “continuous” physical activity because children are given frequent breaks during practice and even during the game. Water is sufficient for hydrating children and doesn’t contain all of the added sugars found in sports drinks.
- Use Caution with drinks claiming to be low in sugar. Drinks promoting reduced sugar often contain artificial sweeteners. While no research conclusively points to any physically harmful effects of artificial sweeteners, they still may present a danger to your child’s balanced diet. First, many soft drinks made with artificial sweeteners also contain high levels of caffeine. In both children and adults, too much caffeine can lead to nervousness, upset stomach, headaches, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, increased heart rate, and increased blood pressure. It doesn’t take a lot of caffeine to produce these effects in children. Second, artificial sweeteners are sometimes as much as 600 times as sweet as sugar. Regular intake can increase our threshold for the sweet taste making it harder to satisfy a craving for “sweet” with healthful alternatives like fruit. Some studies even suggest that artificial sweeteners increase our appetite for foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates (i.e. white bread).
This sounds incredibly strict, but it’s for good reason. My friend recently suggested I check out some videos by Dr. Robert Lustig about the harmful effects of sugar. If you’re still not ready to ditch the sugar, check out this video to see firsthand the startling impact of sugar on our body.
Still one last blog in our sugar series. Stay tuned next week for more information.