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Simplifying the New Added Sugar Recommendations for Kids

sugar recommendations for kids

Now that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have been released, I can’t help but notice parents are looking to get their hands on the new added sugar recommendations for kids.

I believe getting a handle on added sugar in your child’s diet is one key to healthy eating. But that’s not all it takes! I made a quick video called 5 Tips to Start Using the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Today to give you a good idea of what you need to know and how you can get started.

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Okay, back to added sugar: how much, where is it, and how do I cut back?

Let’s start with the numbers. 

First, though, I have a couple of qualifiers that I want to state upfront.

  1. The numbers give you a frame of reference; they are not intended to be obsessed about, nor are they targets you will be able to meet each and every day. Your child’s intake will vary day to day. The overall balance, or average intake, is what matters most.
  2. The sugar limits (10% or less) target ADDED sugar. That’s the stuff you find in desserts, cookies, pies, candy, soda, other sugary beverages, flavored yogurt, sweetened cereals, and yes, even pasta sauce. Think of it this way: when sugar is ADDED to a food product, it’s, well, added sugar.
  3. These sugar limits do not apply to foods that NATURALLY contain sugar, like milk, unsweetened milk products, and fruit. These foods grow as nature intended with lactose (milk) and fructose (fruit) already included. In other words, these sugars are not added, they are already there.
  4. The following numbers are based on the estimated calorie needs for the average child who is moderately active, and are noted by age. As you can see, these needs change as children grow. They can also change based on activity level; sedentary children will need fewer calories and active children will need more. These are general population recommendations, so use this as a guide to get you started. Most likely, your child will not vary greatly from these age-related goals.

Added Sugar Recommendations for Kids

BOYSTotal Calories per DayCalories from Added Sugar# teaspoons per day
2-4 years1000-1400100 to 1406-9 teaspoons
4-8 years1400-1600140-1609-10 teaspoons
9-13 years1800-2200180-22011-14 teaspoons
14-18 years2400-2800240-28015-17 teaspoons
GIRLSTotal Calories per DayCalories from Added Sugar# teaspoons per day
2-4 years1000-1400100 to 1406-9 teaspoons
4-8 years1400-1600140-1609-10 teaspoons
9-13 years1600-2000160-20010-12 teaspoons
14-18 years200020012 teaspoons

To put this in perspective, I have compiled some common foods kids tend to eat, just to give you a quick comparison:

Added Sugar Content of Common Foods for Kids

FOODADDED SUGAR PER SERVINGTEASPOONS PER SERVING
Trix cereal (1 cup)13 grams3 teaspoons
Quaker Chewy Dips granola bar (1)13 grams3 teaspoons
Oreo cookies (3)14 grams3 ½ teaspoons
Sprite (12 ounce can)33 grams8 teaspoons
Welch’s fruit snacks (1 pouch)11 grams2 ¾ teaspoons
Dannon Strawberry Light & Fit yogurt (1 single serving container)9 grams2 teaspoons

For more information on candy and its added sugar content read these: { The Calorie & Sugar Cost of Halloween Candy—don’t miss the free download in this post!} and {Sugary Cereal: Reality Check and a Plan}

Now, I can’t stop writing about added sugar until I leave you with some pearls of wisdom to put this information in perspective…because, after all, you gotta live your life {and so does your child}!

  1. Added sugar comes in obvious forms and not so obvious forms—you should keep track of both.
  2. A little bit of sugar goes a long way to calming a child’s potential obsession with it. If you take sugar out of the diet entirely, you might find yourself with a sugar-fixated child.
  3. I suggest you look at your usual foods and get a read on which ones tend to be high in added sugar. Take a quick diet assessment of your child’s day and add up his usual intake of sugar. If you’re on target, I am giving you a virtual pat on the back. If you need to cut it back, start with some of these suggestions. Remember, it’s the average over time that matters. A day of sugar indulgence happens. What you don’t want is that to become a daily event.
  4. You must allow your child to enjoy sweets when he or she has them. No guilt trip. Period. Read again: Must. Enjoy.
  5. Don’t forget that our little ones are human, and if they taste sugar, see sugar, and smell sugar, they will probably like sugar and want it. And if they get it often enough, they may also prefer it.

I’ve got a related podcast episode on this topic called Striking the Sugar Balance in Kids–check it out!

So, how are your kids doing with sugar?

Want to get the birds-eye view on Nourishing a Healthy Child? I’ve got it for you here:

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