Does your toddler have a bigger appetite for drinks with added sugar such as soda, fruit-flavoured and sports drinks, than fresh fruits and green vegetables?
Be warned, as children between the age of two-to-18 consuming more than six teaspoons of added sugars a day — equivalent to about 100 calories or 25 grams of added sugars — may be at an increased risk of obesity and elevated blood pressure that are key factors for developing heart disease, a study has found.
The findings showed that the likelihood of children developing health problems rises with an increase in the amount of added sugars consumed.
“Children who eat foods loaded with added sugars tend to eat fewer healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products that are good for their heart health,” said lead author Miriam Vos, Professor at Emory University in Georgia, US.
Further, overweight children who continue to take in more added sugars are more likely to be insulin resistant — a precursor to developing Type 2 diabetes.
One of the most common sources of added sugars is sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, fruit-flavoured and sports drinks, sweetened teas and energy drinks.
“Children should not drink more than one 8-ounce sugar-sweetened drink a week,” Vos added.
Moreover, sweet processed foods, which tend to be loaded with added sugars, such as cereal bars, cookies, cakes and many other foods marketed specifically for children, like sweet cereals, should also be avoided.
Added sugars including table sugar, fructose and honey – either used in processing and preparing foods or beverages, added to foods at the table or eaten separately – should not be included at all in the diet of children under the age of two-year, the researchers warned.
The calorie needs of children in this age group are lower than older children and adults, so there is little room for food and beverages containing added sugars that don’t provide them with good nutrition.
In addition, taste preferences begin early in life, so limiting added sugars may help children develop a life-long preference for healthier foods, the study said.
“The best way to avoid added sugars in your child’s diet is to serve mostly foods that are high in nutrition, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meat, poultry and fish, and to limit foods with little nutritional value,” Vos noted, in the paper published in the journal Circulation.