Sneaky Sugars

Contributing Author: Isabelle Wilson

A few weeks ago, I posted “The 411 on Sugar;” an informative article about what sugar is, how it helps us, and other good to know facts about sugar (you can read that here). Today, we’ll dive into those pesky added sugars that can creep up on us. To recap: having some added sugar in your day is totally fine, but we do want to cap it at about 24 grams of added sugar per day (for adults), and as little as possible for kiddos! This is because they are growing so rapidly that there just isn’t a lot of room in their day for low nutrient, high added sugar foods.

Here are some of the leading culprits of sneaky sugar in kids’ diets. 

  1. Juice and other sugary drinks: many parents don’t realize that a cup of juice has about the same amount of sugar as a cup of soda, upwards of 6-8 teaspoons. Yes, technically the sugar in juice is “natural,” but the body recognizes the sugar in juice and the sugar in soda the same way, as the juice contains no fiber or protein to lessen the metabolic impact. Other sports drinks like Gatorade and Vitamin Water are marketed as healthful options, but in reality they contain high amounts of added sugars that are only necessary for athletic kids are playing outside on a very hot day, in the sun for hours, and sweating a lot. Even if this is the case there are lots of healthier ways to keep your child hydrated without all the additional added sugars. Click here to read my recent blog post about keeping your kids healthy and fueled properly in the summer heat!
  2. Cereal:  all of those vibrant cereals that you remember from your childhood actually have about 1 tablespoon of added sugar per bowl. When shopping for cereals I like to always look for a cereal that has whole grain listed as the first ingredient and has at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Protein is also a plus, and no more than 7-8 grams of added sugar per serving. Cereals like Cheerios (plain) and Kix fit the bill! With this combination of nutrients per serving not only will you be reducing your child’s added sugar intake, but with the additional fiber and protein your child will stay fuller for longer.
  3. Oatmeal; this is another product that we often think of as having the automatic “healthy” stamp, but can contain a high amount of sugar, which is about 2.5 teaspoons of cane sugar per packet of oatmeal. Instead of flavored oatmeal packets, start with plain oats and flavor yourself with cinnamon, nut butter, fresh or dried fruit, and nuts or seeds.
  4. Yogurt: All yogurt is going to have some naturally occurring sugar from lactose (milk sugar), but any yogurt that tastes sweet also has added sugar (unless artificially sweetened, see “the 411 on Sugar” post). One cup of Yoplait yogurt contains 13 grams of sugar which is about 1 tablespoon of sugar. My suggestion to parents is to always look for a whole milk or whole fat yogurt with no added sugars. The higher fat content gives the yogurt a better taste without needing as much sugar (as plain yogurt can be tart!) A couple of my favorite brands include Siggis, Icelandic Provisions, and Chobani Hint. These three brands are low in added sugar and high in protein.

If you have more questions about sugar, be sure to listen to my podcast on the topic here!

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