March is National Nutrition Month and one important tip to keep in mind is limiting your child’s
sugar intake. Many foods and snacks contain sugar which is why it’s common for a lot of kids to
consume more sugar than what is considered healthy. Too much sugar can lead to obesity, type
2 diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease, a weakened immune system, and other medical
Not all sugars are the same, however. Natural sugar found in whole foods like fresh fruits,
starchy vegetables, and whole grains is safe to consume. It is even beneficial for your child’s
health to eat these foods because of their nutrients. The sugar in these foods provides the body
with fuel as well. Not getting enough sugar can lead to hypoglycemia, which is when the blood
sugar level is too low and can cause severe fatigue and dizziness. So it’s important that your
child gets an adequate amount of natural sugar from whole foods. Fruits, vegetables, and
complex carbohydrates have fiber which helps slow down the digestion of sugar.
Unlike natural sugar, added sugar and refined sugar can be harmful to your child’s health if not
consumed in moderation. Added sugar is when sugar is added to foods or beverages. There are
various names and types for these sugars, including high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar,
molasses, honey, malt syrup, and raw sugar. Added sugar often includes refined sugar which is
when the sugar has been processed. It is this type of sugar that should be the most limited, but
is commonly found in soda, candy, cookies, ice cream, and other processed snacks. Families
should also be aware that even snacks that aren’t considered sweet may contain added and
refined sugar, like crackers and pretzels. It’s also good to be mindful of cereals and packaged
foods advertised as “healthy” that can still have a high amount of added sugar.
Be careful of some products made with wheat flour like breads, pasta, and pancakes. The
ingredients might include wheat, but if it’s listed as “enriched,” it is still processed; the dietary
fiber and nutrients have been removed.
The best way to satisfy your child’s sweet tooth is to give them whole fruits. Children under 2
years of age shouldn’t consume any added sugar. For older children, it is recommended that
they do not consume more than 25 grams of added sugar (about 6 teaspoons) per day and
sugar shouldn’t make up more than 10% of their daily calories. To ensure that they’re not going
over these limits, read the list of ingredients and nutrition facts labels carefully. For tips on how
to read labels, check out this resource from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Keep in mind that sugary beverages like soda and candies are even more harmful than some of
the common sugar-containing snacks. Not only do these tend to have higher sugar content, they lack any nutrients and fiber to help digest the sugar, hence why they’re considered empty
calories. Treats like these, as well as desserts high in sugar, should only be for special occasions
and in small portions.
If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s diet, please contact our office.