While it is hard to believe, children are now eating their weight in sugar every year. Recent studies looking into the dietary habits of our children show that they are consuming more sugar than ever before and the main culprits are exactly what you might guess: soda and fruit juice. If typical, children – even small children – are eating 1/4 to 1/2 a pound of sugar a day for an average of around 100 pounds of sugar every year.
A new study in the journal, Pediatrics, looked into sugar consumption from just soda and fruit juice. Here is what they found:
- Children are consuming somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of their calories from soda and fruit juice alone
- Children aged 6 to 19 consumed an average of 30 oz of soda or fruit juice every day
- 2 to 5 year-olds consumed an average of 15.5 oz of juice or soda a day
- The average serving size of the drinks they are drinking has increased 46 percent (almost doubled) since 1972
What you have to understand about the above statistics is that they are saying that 10 to 15 percent of the calories our children are eating are coming from just soda or fruit juice. These numbers don’t include sugar such as breakfast cereals, cookies, candies, ice cream and all the hidden sugars such as those found in peanut butter, crackers, chips and other fast foods. For those who have read my book or this blog often, you know that those statistics don’t include foods that act like sugar in our bodies such as many grains and starchy vegetables.
It is clear that our children are overdosing on sugar.
Are You Sure? One-Half a Pound a day?
Every time I write that we eat 1/4 to 1/2 of a pound of sugar a day, I always get questions. So let’s see how easy it is to make it to that 1/2 pound every day. Remember that 1/4 pound of sugar equals 30 teaspoons of sugar. You can get 30 teaspoons of sugar very easily, for example:
- A 12oz soda contains 8 teaspoons of sugar, a 16oz soda contains 10.5 teaspoons
- Typical breakfast cereals contain 4 to 6 teaspoons of sugar
- A donut contains 8 to 30 teaspoons of sugar
- A typical cookie contains 2 to 4 teaspoons of sugar for each cookie
- For a more complete list, look here: Percentage Of Sugar In Common Foods
As you can see, it isn’t all that hard to make it to 60 teaspoons (or 1/2 pound of sugar a day).
Parents, Most of this is Happening on Your Watch
The study in the journal, Pediatrics, showed something surprising: that most of this soda drinking was happening at home. Around 55 to 70 percent of sugar sweetened beverages are consumed in the home, while 7 to 15 percent in schools. These numbers were slightly higher from very young children who attended day care or preschool where fruit juice is a common treat for the kids.
This means that parents are largely responsible for the incredible amount of sugar their children eat every day.
Halloween is One Thing, but…
Kids are going to eat a lot of candy on Halloween, but parents should focus more on their children’s day-to-day consumption of sugar. There are long-term health effects that can result from eating so much sugar: Obesity and diabetes are epidemic in children and only getting worse.
We can do a lot to determine the health of our children by helping them make better choices about sugar. Since most of the sugar consumption is happening at home, simply not buying soda, fruit juice and other sugary snacks can go a long way to eliminating sugar consumption in our children.