How much sugar do your kids eat each day? The American Heart Association recommends that kids eat less than 6.5 teaspoons or 100 calories from sugar each day. But according to a poll in Family Circle, the average teen takes in about 34 teaspoons of sugar, or 500 calories worth, each day.
Part of the problem is the confusing food labels that make it hard to understand just how much sugar is in your kids' food. Here's how to read those labels so that you can monitor (and if necessary, cut back on) all of that sugar.
Add it up: Food labels will tell you the amount of calories in a product and the grams of sugar, but they won't tell you the calories from sugar, and that's the number you need to watch. To figure it out, multiply the grams of sugar in a single serving by four. (So if serving of cereal has say 11 grams of sugar, that's 44 calories from sugar ... almost half of the day's allotment.)
Speak sugar: Most parents know that if the first ingredient listed on a food's nutrition label is sugar, it's probably not a good bet for their kids. But what about maltose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, cane sugar, corn sweetener, raw sugar or fruit juice concentrate? All of these ingredients are still sugar, and you should keep an eye on your kid's consumption.
Rethink drinks (and snacks): Sugar-sweetened drinks are the main culprits behind overdoses in sugar. A single 12-ounce can of soda may have as much as 39 grams of sugar. That's more than 150 calories from sugar, way more than a kid should have in a day. Stick with water and milk to keep kids hydrated. If plain water is too boring, jazz it up with lemon, lime, or other fruit slices. Snacks are another major source of sugar ... especially highly processed snacks. Try whole fruits, cheeses, nuts, unsweetened applesauce, whole grain crackers, and peanut butter instead.