The food industry often offers one thing. Pediatricians and health practitioners often say to adopt another. In between are the parents – stuck rationalizing the health recommendations of some against the cultural norms surrounding many. All while their kid is complaining they want the sweets, treats, and sugar-coated something they see others enjoying.
It’s no wonder parents are unsure what to do, or even where to start when it comes to introducing sugar.
A good place to start is with addressing how much sugar a child should eat. That lies the foundation for many other healthy eating habits to develop for your whole family.
This post will address how to calculate, monitor, and modify your child’s recommended sugar intake.
This will allow you to evaluate your family’s diet more accurately and alongside the discussion, as we address a variety of aspects regarding sugar intake in upcoming posts shared first here with subscribers.
Calculating Your Child’s Recommended Sugar Intake
On average, toddlers 2-3 years old need 1,000-1,400 calories a day. While I rarely ever (AKA pretty much never) would consider calorie-counting appropriate in this age group, parents do need to know how total calories impact the context of their child’s sugar intake.
According to the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Americans (including children) should only be getting approximately 10% of their total calories from added sugar. To get this value, we use the “rule of 4” for calculating the recommended maximum amount of added sugar intake.
For your average two year old, you can assume they need 1,000 calories per day on average:
1,000 total calories/day x 10% of total calories = 100 calories per day from added sugar
100 calories per day from added sugar / 4 calories per gram sugar = 25 grams of added sugar
25 grams of sugar / 4 g sugar per teaspoon = ~6 teaspoons of added sugar per day
This means for the typical two year old, they should consume no more than 6 teaspoons, or 25 grams, of added sugar per day. To estimate the amount of added sugar appropriate for other members of you family, use this reference table from the Dietary Guidelines (Table A2-1).
Monitoring Your Child’s Recommended Sugar Intake
How do you know how much, “no more than 6 teaspoons, or 25 grams, of added sugar per day” is?
That’s a great question.
The first and most obvious answer should be to look at the nutrition label. Up until now however, the nutrition facts have only indicated total sugars. For foods like dairy, fruit, and grains, this does not always given an accurate picture of how many added sugars are also in the food.
For this reason, Today’s Dietitian shares how the new nutrition facts label will include: ‘”Added Sugars” and % Daily Value (DV) for added sugars. Added sugars in grams per serving will appear on the label as “Includes XX g Added Sugars” indented directly below “Total Sugars.”’
Ingredients lists are another way to inadvertently assess if there has been sugar added to a particular food. By looking at the ingredients list for items like these, you can identify if sugar has been added. Until the new nutrition labels are in full effect, this helps you evaluate if the amount of sugar listed on the nutrition facts label as “total sugar” may reflect the food item itself, or also added sugars. A perfect example of this is plain versus vanilla-flavored yogurt.
With the first image, we see under the ingredients list that no additional sweeteners are used. Thus, the 12 g of sugars listed under the nutrition information are all naturally occurring sugars from yogurt.
With the next image, we see how vanilla yogurt has in fact been sweetened with the added sugar listed on the ingredient list: organic sugar. This is further reflected on the nutrition facts label, having 30 g of sugar (compared to the 12 g naturally occurring in plain yogurt).
This means that in 1 cup of vanilla yogurt, there is an additional 18 g of added sugar! Yikes! For a two year old up through someone in adulthood, that is a considerable amount of added sugar in relation to one’s overall diet.
Modifying Your Child’s Recommended Sugar Intake
If this post has got you thinking about what your child’s recommend sugar intake is and how to monitor it, there is a good chance you have too thought to yourself about a modification that may need to be made. Typically, this applies to the whole family and is a lifestyle change that can benefit everyone.
In order to cultivate healthy eating habits in our homes, we need to raise our families to have a balanced diet, made up of mostly wholesome foods, while also enjoying the occasional indulgences. A post highlighting healthy behaviors towards sugar will be shared here.
Sugar may have no nutritive value, but the reality is it is a part of most of our everyday lives. That’s why it is our responsibility as parents to know how much is acceptable at each age and stage. To take it one step further, we also must be able to modify excessive sugar intakes so it doesn’t take up valuable real estate in the tummies of toddlers and on. An upcoming post on treats misuse and sugar abuse will be shared here.
If sugar still seems a bit beyond your control and is consuming your kids, it may be time to get a little expert help. With a kitchen makeover, I can help you identify the most problem areas of your pantry/fridge/freezer, address easy modifications for lower sugar alternatives, and equip you with a personalized grocery list so you know just which items are appropriate to buy at each age and feeding stage.
Reclaim Your Child’s Recommended Sugar Intake
If you are ready to take action to reclaim your child’s recommended sugar intake, subscribe here to receive upcoming posts on this very subject. Sugar intake is something almost every family I know needs to reclaim, including mine. Let’s make healthy changes for a sweeter life together!
Sweet versus sour:
What is your biggest struggle when it comes to calculating, monitoring, or modifying your child’s recommended sugar intake? Be sure to share on any of the upcoming posts I share on on my Instagram and Facebook page.