How much sugar does a toddler need?

This week I have SAD news from one of the food companies, Kellogg’s. Of course, my sadness is really because of a more unhealthy and unconsciously living future that we’re heading towards…

How much sugar do you think a toddler needs to eat each day? Kelloggs has started to sell a new cereal for toddlers, called “Baby Shark Cereal”. It’s berry flavored with marshmallows. Sounds delicious, yes? It probably is, toddlers will love it, but one and a third cups of it has 150 calories, 190mg of sodium, and 15 grams of sugar. So 40% of its total calories are coming from sugars.

Now you may think that’s ok, kids are growing and they do need more calories. But calories in added sugar doesn’t give them any of the nutrients that their body needs.

Toddlers in North America are consuming on average over seven teaspoons of added sugar each day. That is more than the recommended amount of six teaspoons for adult women!

Do food companies market directly to children? Absolutely, yes, they do. And we can not blame the companies, they’re just running and promoting businesses. However, we cancontrol our choices and we can educate ourselves and make the best decisions for our kids and for ourselves.

Correct food choices, especially at an early age, can affect a person’s weight and health outcome throughout their entire life. Toddlers are already getting plenty of sugars that are found naturally in foods toddlers such as fruit and dairy, so the added sugar in processed foods — added only for taste — presents a much bigger problem. These added sugars are also addictive, for everyone.

The recommended added sugar intake is below 100 calories per day (6 teaspoons) for children aged between 2 to 18 years. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020doesn’t actually make any recommendations for infants and babies. The American Heart Association recommends that children under the age of 2 consume no added sugar at all.

Eating too much added sugar has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and a general lower life quality overall. So too much added sugar not good for anyone. The recommended added sugar for adult women is 6 teaspoons, and for adult men 9 teaspoons per day. And even this is really not very much. For example, fruit juice contains no fiber and is just as high in sugar and calories as most sugar-sweetened beverages — 12oz (350 ml) apple juice has around 165 calories and 39 grams of sugar (that’s 9.8 teaspoons, well above the total daily recommended amount for adults). The same sized coca-cola has 140 calories and 40 grams of sugar (10 teaspoons).

So unfortunately you can’t think that by not drinking soda and choosing healthier alternatives you’re avoiding the added sugar, because sadly you are not. Instead of drinking the juice, for example eating a whole apple would be a much healthier choice for you and your kids too.

One more example for adults: “Cheerios Protein Cereal” sounds fairly healthy, and you’d probably assume that it’s high in protein, yes? In fact it has only 7 grams of protein per serving, but it also has 17 grams of sugars. Here’s the ingredient list:

Whole grain oats, cluster (whole grain oats, brown sugar, soy protein, lentils, sugar, corn syrup, natural flavor, molasses, rice starch, caramel (sugar, caramelized sugar syrup), salt, calcium carbonate, baking soda, color added, BHT added to preserve freshness), sugar, corn starch, honey, salt, refiner’s syrup, tripotassium phosphate, rice bran and/or canola oil, color added, natural flavor, brown sugar, vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) and BHT added to preserve freshness.

Here’s a few healthier alternatives for your breakfast:

  • egg omelettes
  • whole fruits, not the fruit juice
  • plain yogurt with fresh fruits
  • oatmeal banana cookies
  • nut butter
  • overnight oats
  • cottage cheese
  • oven baked egg muffins with veggies
  • mashed carrots or sweet potatoes
  • and home made pancakes.

Please, do yourself the favor and read the ingredient list first — if you can’t read it or understand what the ingredients are, then your body can’t either!!!

Resources:

1: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000439

2: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/sugar-recommendation-healthy-kids-and-teens-infographic

3: https://www.foodpolitics.com/?s=kelloggs

4: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/toddlers-eating-more-sugar-than-recommended-for-adults#1

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