ATLANTA - The American Heart Association is warning parents about the dangers of added sugars in their children’s food, and it may be putting their hearts at-risk.
So, for the first time, the AHA is setting a limit on how much added sugar kids should consume each day.
Many foods like fruit, plain milk and plain yogurt, contain naturally-occurring sugars.
But added sugars are different.
They’re added by food manufacturers to make their products taste sweeter.
The biggest source of added sugar for children is sweetened drinks, says registered dietitian Monica Griffin, who is with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Strong4Life program.
Griffin says many common breakfast and lunch foods are loaded down with added sugars.
"We also find it in foods like cereals, granola bars, pastries, cookies,” Griffin says. “But it's hidden in a lot of foods that even seem healthy."
Now, for the first time, the Heart Association is setting a limit on how much added sugar children should consume each day.
"So, we've been saying, ‘Cut back, cut back, eat less,’” says Griffin. “But now we have a number that's going to be really helpful in telling parents what to aim for. So that's 25 grams of added sugar a day, or about 6 teaspoons, for children between the ages of 2 and 18.
Children under 2 should be consuming no added sugars, the Heart Association says.
How do you cut the sugar?
Griffin says try a better-for-your-kids breakfast idea.
In a 6-cup muffin tin sprayed with oil, she adds vegetables like spinach, carrots and tomatoes.
Then, she sprinkles a little bit of cheese in each cup.
Next, she whisks six eggs and pours the mixture on top of the veggies and cheese.
She sticks it into a 350 degree oven and bakes it for 20 minutes.
And while breakfast is baking, she tackles lunch, swapping hidden-sugar foods with healthier options.
Instead of sugary fruit drinks and fruit snacks, she adds a watered-down juice box and a mini box of raisins.
"Instead of granola bar and fruit yogurt, try popcorn and a piece of cheese,” Griffin says.
She swaps chocolate milk and muffins, for plain milk, some carrots and hummus.
When breakfast is ready, Griffin’s egg muffins look and smell delicious.
Griffin says it may take some work to steer your kids away from high-sugar foods.
"But what we're asking is for families to take one step at a time and just cut back,” she says. “If you can do a little better than you are doing today, that's a great start."