I’ve thought quite a bit lately about the amount of sugar I have been consuming- and how much I’ve given my kids. I’ve been quite proud of the fact that I keep the HFCS to a minimum but now it’s time to get a handle on sugar in general. It’s not easy- I love all things salt and most things sweet, but one trick I have learned over the years about diet has been to EDUCATE yourself on nutrition and let what you know be that voice inside your head that says, “Are you sure you want another Oreo?”
According to Eileen Behan, registered dietitian and author of Fit Kids, the average American eats 80 grams of sugar when only 40 grams per day is recommended. 40 grams of sugar is about 10 teaspoons . To put this into perspective, I collected a sampling of snack and breakfast foods and simply read each label to see how many grams were in each serving. I chose breakfast foods since it is the one meal per day that I think we all struggle with as far as finding something that isn’t loaded with sugar yet quick and easy. My brother’s idea of breakfast is most likely a caramel mocha latte. . .
Below I have pictures of what each snack/breakfast item looks like in it’s recommended serving size and then a graphic stating how many grams of sugar are in each serving. Let’s start with breakfast.
I used to always make my kids an omelet for breakfast but have gotten lazy. After reading the labels, I think I have enough motivation to get off my butt and make that omelet in the morning (or just buy Cheerio’s). My mom used to have a rule- Anything under 10 grams of sugar per serving was allowed in the house. I think that’s a great rule to live by!
But here’s the thing with breakfast cereals- although the cereal looks like the absolute safest bet, don’t forget you are putting milk on top of the cereal and that also has sugar in it.
Still, even with the 12g of sugar per 1 cup of milk, Cheerios are the better choice over the Pop Tart OBVIOUSLY. I think most people know this. But most people probably do not know that there is more sugar in certain “healthy” cereals compared with that of say Lucky Charms or other cereals deemed “unhealthy”. Rule of thumb- even when not in doubt, read the label anyway. You might be surprised. My husband recently brought home a store brand knock off of Banana Nut Crunch. The box art portrayed a healthy-looking cereal but the label told me it had 17 grams of sugar per serving!!!! That’s far more than Fruit Loops or even Lucky Charms. Here is a good article about kid’s breakfast cereal specifically.
Now onto snacks! Which do you think is better? 1 orange or 1 serving of raisins?
Are you shocked? I was! So you can eat three oranges to 1/2 cup of raisins and get the same amount of sugar. I think a lot of moms think that raisins are a good treat. I suppose they are better than some things, but I always remember my mom telling me the story about taking me to the dentist as a child. My mom was proud to tell the dentist that the majority of my snacks were things like raisins. But then he told her that raisins were one of the worst snacks for a child. The sticky sweet sugar stays on the teeth for a long time- much like a jelly bean. The dentist actually told her she would be better off in some cases giving us chocolate because at least with milk chocolate it will melt in the mouth and so is better for the teeth.
I’m not saying give your kid chocolate instead of raisins, but I am saying to think about things in another context such as the texture of it or hidden ingredients. For example, the chocolate might melt in the mouth and be better for the teeth, but it also has caffeine and do you really want your kids hopped up on caffeine all night? I won’t say everything in moderation, but some things in moderation.
Which brings me to these beauties . . .
27 grams per serving (serving size seen here). Well, yeah. . . I mean it’s candy after all so it has a lot of sugar! Things like this are once in a while, special occasion. If I buy a bag, it definitely lasts a few weeks. I have introduced my 3 year-old to treats like this, but he knows he can’t have something like this everyday and that if he does want it, he has to eat something healthy first to balance it out.
Here are a few examples of sweet snacks:
So let’s do some math. Let’s say you or your child wakes up and has a glass of milk with some pre-packaged oatmeal and an orange. Chances are you’ll have another glass of milk with supper. You’ve met your quota on sugar for the day. Actually, you have exceeded it. Does that put things into perspective?
12g of sugar per cup of milk x’s 2= 24
+ orange 9g = 33
+oatmeal 14g = 47g
It doesn’t take long to add up to 40g that’s for sure!
Let’s say you have raisins and a glass of milk. 29g + 12g = 41 grams. Good job, you only exceeded the recommended amount by 1g. Frustrating, isn’t it?
I guess the key here is to not obsess but to just be aware. There are a lot of good articles out there on nutrition and I recommend everyone study up if you have kids, are trying to lose weight or if diabetes runs in the family, etc. There are also books out there for parents like me who need reassurance that we aren’t ruining our kids with too much junk which does comes in handy from time to time!