How much sugar is okay for kids?
Most kids love sugary foods, drinks, candy and desserts, so it can be tempting to use sweet treats as an incentive or reward. But is it okay to give sugar to kids? Ayesha Nutt, NP, answered a few questions about sugar and offered advice to help keep your family healthy.
Why is sugar bad for kids?
Nutt offered these reasons why sugar is not a good choice for kids on a regular basis.
- It can decrease their immune systems. Excess sugar can cause decreased immune function causing kids to be more susceptible to getting sick.
- It can cause a sugar high. Sugar causes the blood sugar to spike which can affect children’s behavior, attention and ability to learn.
- It can cause long-term health issues. A child’s diet with increased amounts of sugar can cause long-term risk of obesity, hypertension, heart disease, fatty liver disease, diabetes, cancer, dental issues and more.
- It can fill up their bellies and leave little room for healthy foods. A little tummy full of sugar has no room for healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dairy products. These healthy foods are where their bodies get the vitamins and nutrition they need to grow.
- It provides no actual nutrition. Sugar lacks any nutritional value such as fiber, vitamins and minerals.
When is sugar okay for kids?
Sugar is okay in small doses. “While it isn’t something you should be giving your children every day, it is okay to offer as a treat or on a special occasion,” said Nutt.
How much sugar is too much?
Nutt said it is recommended that children under the age of two have no added sugar at all. After the age of two, less than 10% of your total daily calorie intake should be from sugar.
Is a sugar substitute okay?
“There may be circumstances where sugar substitutes are okay for children. However, as a general rule, artificial sweeteners are not recommended,” said Nutt.
“It isn’t about not allowing your kids to enjoy sugary foods or candy, but in limiting their intake. It shouldn’t be part of their everyday diet, but it also shouldn’t be something they are never allowed to have and enjoy. Teaching them healthy habits with sugar now will set them up for success later in life,” said Nutt.
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