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You already know that too much sugar in your kid’s diet isn’t good for him, especially because he can get cavities, but eating too much of the sweet stuff year after year can also lead to type-2 diabetes, weight gain and obesity, fatty liver disease and heart disease.
The American Heart Association says kids under 2 shouldn’t have any added sugar in their diets while those between 2 and 18 should have no more than 25 grams or 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Yet some experts say it’s not only the added sugar we should be paying attention to, but the overall amount of sugar. For example, fructose is found in fruit and is natural but too much can have the same health effects as added sugars.
Surprisingly, when it comes to the sugary foods your kids eat, it’s not only cookies, cake and candy. There are seemingly healthy foods that are actually sneaky sources of sugar in your kid’s diet. Here are 10.
I like my kids to drink kefir because of the healthy dose of probiotics it contains. In fact, a February 2015 study in the Iranian Journal of Public Health found kefir can reduce A1C levels in people with type-2 diabetes. Yet start to read labels and you’ll discover most brands of kefir are high in sugar.
If you’re going to feed your kids fruit-flavored kefir, it’s probably OK if they have a low-sugar diet but your best bet is to purchase plain kefir, add fresh or frozen fruit and blend into a smoothie. You can also make your own kefir at home.
2. Nut butters
Peanut butter and almond butter are excellent sources of protein, fiber and healthy fats and a kid favorite but it’s probably because of the sugar most brands have.
Always read labels and choose brands that are made with nuts and oil only.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that cereals which contain ingredients like artificial colors, marshmallows or chocolate or those that taste like dessert are filled with sugar but cereals that seem healthy because they’re high in fiber or have whole-grains can also be sneaky sources of sugar in your kid’s diet. Also, if your kids eat more than one serving, the sugar they get can be double or triple the serving size.
Read labels carefully and choose cereals that ideally have less than 6 grams of sugar per serving.
4. Sports drinks
You already know that soda is a significant source of sugar but most sports and energy drinks are as well.
Sure, your kids might work out hard on the field, but water is actually all they need. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says children should restrict or avoid consuming these drinks because they can lead to weight gain, obesity and cavities.
Yogurt can be a good source of protein and calcium but most brands are high in sugar.
Those with candy, chocolate chips or granola are obvious ones but brands that are fruit flavored or contain fruit are nothing more than a mix of fruit and sugar.
To find a healthy, low-sugar yogurt, choose plain, Greek yogurt and add your own fresh fruit like raspberries which also contain fiber and have a low glycemic load.
6. Condiments, sauces and dressings
Ketchup, tomato and barbecue sauces, dips, spreads, and salad dressings can all be sneaky sources of sugar in your kids’ diet.
Always read the ingredients, compare brands, use condiments, sauces, dressings and dips in moderation or make your own at home so you can control the ingredients and the sugar content.
7. Dried fruit
Trail mix, raisins and other types of dried fruit can be an easy, convenient snack to pack for school lunch or for a road trip. Although dried fruit sounds like a healthy choice, it can also be a sneaky source of sugar in your kid’s diet.
Always choose fresh fruit first and eat dried fruit in moderation. Read labels too since many dried fruit brands add more sugar to make them taste even sweeter.
Fruit, oats and nuts: what could be more wholesome than granola? Sure, it’s often touted as a healthy choice but most brands of granola and granola bars contain way too much sugar for kids.
Always eat granola in small amounts and look for brands of granola that don’t have added sugar.
Whether you feed your kids white, whole wheat or gluten-free, bread is a significant source of sugar.
If your kids eat toast for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch, they could be getting too much sugar in their diet. Cut back on the amount of bread your kids eat by making overnight oats or eggs for breakfast or lettuce wraps for lunch, for example.
10. Fruit juice
For years, fruit juice has been touted as a healthy food for toddlers and kids. Although it has certain vitamins and nutrients and can count as a serving of fruit—a good thing if your kid is a picky eater—in reality, fruit juice is concentrated sugar. Fruit juice also lacks fiber, something all kids need whether they’re constipated or not.
If you want your kids to drink juice, make fresh green vegetable juice with some fruit at home instead. Otherwise, offer fresh fruit first and only serve fruit juice occasionally. Be mindful of portion sizes—4 ounces is one serving—and consider diluting it with water.