The American Heart Association is hoping its most recent recommendation about children’s sugar intake will encourage healthier eating habits starting at a young age.
Its committee said children between 2 and 18 should consume less than 25 grams, or six teaspoons of added sugar per day and to avoid added sugars for children less than 2 years old.
AHA said while added sugars “most likely can be safely consumed in low amounts as part of a healthy diet, few children achieve such levels, making this an important public health target.”
Studies have shown, particularly a 2014 report published in JAMA: Internal Medicine, that a diet high in added sugar is associated with a higher risk of dying from heart disease.
These guidelines may be helpful to encourage better eating by age 2, as it’s more difficult to break the habit of craving sweets in adulthood.
It’s very easy to go over the six teaspoons per day if eating out or eating processed foods. In fact, AHA said children ages 1 to 3 years old already exceed the recommendation.
This recommendation is specifically for added sugar - sugar that is not found naturally in foods. When grocery shopping, this can be tricky, as sugar is often hidden in numerous products in many forms.
Besides table sugar, honey and high fructose corn syrup, you may find other names for sugar in ketchup, sauces, cereals, soft drinks and snack foods. This includes: corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, maple syrup, molasses and nectars such as peach.
It may be a difficult change in lifestyle for some, as Americans have grown accustomed to giving young children juice with their meals, and sweet treats for being well behaved. Just like with an adult, it’s an opportunity to become familiar with a variety of other foods that may satisfy the sweet tooth while providing nutrition as well.