Break Up with Added Sugar this Valentine’s Day
How do you show your love on Valentine’s Day?
Many Americans do much more than say a simple “I love you.” Consumers will spend over $17 billion on gifts for their loved ones this year, and nearly half will spend their money on candy. That’s an average of $22 of candy per person.
Valentine’s Day is just one of many occasions during the year when we splurge on extra sugar. But when sugar surrounds us every day, is there really such thing as “extra sugar”?
In fact, many foods do contain added sugar. Unlike the natural sugars found in fruits and whole grains, added sugars are used to enhance processed or prepared foods. The problem is that sugar is often present in foods we don’t expect, leading us to consume more sugar than we realize.
So, this year, when your child is reading messages on conversation hearts, start a conversation about sugar—and how much is too much.
The Heartbreaking Truth about Sugar
While giving sweets to loved ones on Valentine’s Day is a way to show love, sugar can literally be dangerous for our hearts. Research published earlier this month indicates that adults with higher sugar intakes have a higher risk of getting heart disease. In a study, those who got 25% of their daily calories from added sugar were almost three times more likely to die of heart disease than those who consumed less than 10%.
By eating too much sugar, kids can start down the path to heart disease at a young age. Past studies have shown that kids get up to 16% of their calorie intake from added sugar, which is 200 hundred or more empty calories a day. That’s more than the American Heart Association’s recommended daily amount for adults, which is 100 calories for women and 150 for men. Sugar can clearly become a problem for people of all ages.
How Much Sugar Should Your Child Eat?
Recommendations for sugar intake in adults vary across different health organizations, and there are even fewer recent standards for children. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how much sugar you and your child should consume.
To manage your sugar intake more effectively, make sure you carefully check all food labels. Look for these words to see if sugar is hidden in the ingredients:
- Words ending in “-ose,” such as fructose and dextrose
Avoid foods with artificial sweeteners as well, or you’ll have trouble getting rid of your sugar cravings.
Another tip is to make sure you’re aware of the common processed and packaged foods that pack more sugar than you expect. These foods include:
- Cereal and granola bars
- Fruit-flavored yogurt
- Fruit juice or canned fruit in syrup
- Tomato sauce
- Salad dressing
- Barbecue sauce
For more information on added and natural sugars, check out the American Heart Association’s “Frequently Asked Questions About Sugar” and take WebMD’s Sugar Quiz.
Choosing Healthy Sugars for Your Child
When your child does have added sugar, try to save it for later in the day. We all know what it’s like to experience a sugar high and the sluggishness that follows. That’s because foods with added sugar can be digested quickly, which means they don’t maintain your blood sugar levels for very long.
To make sure your child is performing at his or her best during school, opt for complex carbohydrates. Fruits, grains, and low-fat dairy foods contain natural sugars that take longer to digest, making them better sources of energy.
Here are some resources to help you find energizing meal ideas for your child:
Check out the Connections Academy Cookbook for more recipes.
Now that you know the facts, how much added sugar do you think children should consume? We want to hear your side.