Sugar is Hiding in Your Kids’ Food - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on April 27, 2015

Sugar is Hiding in Your Kids’ Food

Crozer-Keystone Health SystemMedia Contact:
Katrina Stier
(610) 447-6314

We perceive even freshly-squeezed juices to be healthy, but they actually contain a lot of sugar.

Talk to a Crozer-Keystone pediatrician if you have
questions about your child's diet and nutritional needs.

As a parent, a large part of your life is dedicated to ensuring your child is happy and healthy. You work hard to make sure they have everything they need. But when it comes to feeding your kids food they not only like, but that’s healthy for them, it can be difficult.

There are clearly foods out there you know your child shouldn’t eat or only eat in moderation, like candy and soda, but others may be less obvious. In particular, there are a lot of foods that may seem like they’re healthy for your kids, but are actually laden with tons of sugar.

“The big one is fruit juices, and not necessarily the terrible ones like those fruit-flavored ones we all know. Even natural juices have a high amount of sugar in them,” said Chris Stenberg, M.D., Crozer-Keystone’s chair of pediatrics. “We perceive even freshly-squeezed juices to be healthy, but they actually contain a lot of sugar.”

Other foods common in kids’ diets that may seem healthy, but are high in sugar include fruit cups, breakfast cereals, yogurt, cereal or breakfast bars, apple sauce, graham crackers, fruit jelly, spaghetti sauce, barbecue sauce, flavored milks and more.

Why is this “hidden” sugar so bad for your children?

“Immediately it’s bad because you’re giving them more calories. If those calories aren’t burned up, they’re going to be stored as fat,” Dr. Stenberg said. And, according to a recent study, it’s these “hidden calories” that greatly contributes to the childhood obesity epidemic, which ultimately leads to chronic health conditions as adults.

Researchers reported that American children are simply consuming too much sugar and salt, don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables and are too overweight, which is setting them up for early heart disease.

“As we store more and more fat, we reduce our ability to deal with sugar in the body. Down the road, that lends itself to type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Stenberg said of another future consequence of too much sugar in children’s diets.

“(Obesity is) a risk factor for arthritis, joint problems and it's a risk factor for stroke,” he said.

When it comes to too much sodium, the health effects don’t appear as immediately as they do with sugar.

“Sodium is more of a stealthy thing – it has more to do with hypertension long term and blood pressure control,” he said. Typically, we consume excess sodium by eating prepared, packaged and processed foods.

What can parents do to make sure the food they’re giving their children really is healthy?

First and foremost, read the nutrition label. Just because the packaging says “100% juice,” “an excellent source of calcium,” “contains whole grains” or “fat free” doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain shocking amounts of sugar. Flip the package over to see just how many grams of sugar the product contains – keep in mind that one teaspoon of granulated sugar is equivalent to 4 grams of sugar. So if a product has 16 grams of sugar, that’s equal to about 4 teaspoons of granulated sugar.

Another great way to manage how much sugar and sodium your children are consuming is to cook their food yourself. That means they’ll be eating more fresh foods in which you control the ingredients as opposed to packaged, processed products.

“We want children to have a balanced diet that has fruits, vegetables, whole grains and a limited amount of sodium and fat,” Dr. Stenberg said.

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