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Avoid Sugary Pitfalls

By Nancy L. VanderSluis, M.D.

Avoid Sugary Pitfalls image

Picnicking at the park, cooling off after a baseball game, hanging out by the pool—recreational activities go hand-in-hand with cool refreshi​ng drinks.

Boys Town Pediatrics urges parents not to make the mistake of giving children sugary drinks to quench their thirst. Soda, sweetened bottled tea and fruit drinks add useless calories to a child’s diet. Instead of sugary drinks, offer lots of water, low fat milk and a limited amount of 100% fruit juice.

Nutritionists at Cornell University in New York found that children who drank more than 12 ounces of sweetened drinks a day gained significantly more weight over two months than children who drank less than six ounces a day.

According to their report, researchers at Cornell found that children tended to pass up milk when they were offered a sweet drink, and that caregivers tended to offer either milk, or a sweet drink, but not both. If your child attends daycare, talk with his or her provider about offering milk or water during lunch and snack times.

Sugar does not need to be eliminated from the diet altogether. Sweets are not bad if they are consumed in moderation. The body needs sugar to function and the brain needs glucose to think. However, the majority of sugar in your child’s diet should come mostly from natural sources such as milk, fruit and grain products.

The recommended daily allowance of calories from sugar and starches (carbohydrates) is 55%. Of this amount, no more than 10% should come from refined sugar (sucrose).

Tips to Help Curb the Amount of Sugar Your Family Consumes

  • Not giving your child sweets before turning 1 year old. A child who is introduced to sweets too early may be unwilling to try new foods that are unsweetened.
  • Offering non-sugary drinks during meals and snacks.
  • Not forbidding sweets altogether. Doing so may increase a child’s fascination with them. Allow sweets in moderation. One candy bar is okay, eating the entire bag is not.
  • Limiting the amount of sweets you buy. A child will choose a sugary snack over a healthy snack nine times out of ten. Instead, stock up on healthy snacks a kid can grab on the go, such as fruits, vegetables and cheeses.
  • Setting a good example when it comes to consumption of sweets. Let your child see you choosing healthy snacks over sugary snacks.
  • Allowing sweets for dessert. As long as sweets are eaten after a well-balanced meal and in moderation, they will not lead to physical symptoms such as stomachaches or obesity.

Set up a consultation with your child’s doctor if he or she frequently binges on sweets, you repeatedly nag your child about sweets, you think your child has a problem with sugar or you have other questions or concerns.​