Sugar might seem like it’s practically a swear word in health circles these days, and not without good reason. The sweet stuff certainly isn’t the cause of all of our health problems, but the simple fact is our kids are getting too much of it, and it’s hurting them.
We’re not talking about the natural sugars you find in fruit or milk. The trouble comes from added sugars that are put in food and drinks for flavoring — stuff like dextrose, sucrose and high fructose corn syrup. All these sugars do is boost the calories while adding no nutritional value whatsoever. While there isn’t a standard recommended daily amount of sugar kids should have per day, it’s safe to say that many foods and beverages with added sugars go way beyond what most health experts say is OK.
We all know about how sugar contributes to childhood obesity, although the numbers and facts bear repeating. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that, as of 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Obese youth are at far greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, as well as social and psychological issues.
Outside of obesity, too much sugar also can contribute to tooth decay, dehydration, headaches, liver problems, and a laundry list of other ills.
So if we know it’s so bad for us, why can’t we get enough of it? Well, that’s tied in with another drawback: sugar can be addicting. Literally. Recent studies have come out showing that the more sugar your body gets, the more it craves. That, and sugar seems like it’s absolutely everywhere on the food shelves.
While the battle may be tough, there are ways to keep your kids’ sugar intake under control. Keep these tips in mind when making food and beverage choices:
The message here isn’t necessarily anti-sugar as much as anti-too much sugar. Like many things in life, moderation is the key. It absolutely can be tough to break the sugar habit, but the good news is that once you’re doing it for a while, it’ll get easier. And a little bit of pain upfront can pay off with a big-time improvement in lifelong health.