In August 2016, the American Heart Association came out with added sugar recommendations for children. The AHA recommendations no more than 6 teaspoons a day for children. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans also recommend limiting added sugar intake to 10% of total calories. Here is a wonderful infographics that shows the added sugars in commonly consumed foods from the American Heart Association.
Added sugars are not the same as naturally occurring sugars, like lactose in milk or fructose in fruit. When sugar is added to foods during preparation, this is considered added sugar. Sugar, syrups, cakes, cookies, pies, some cereals, sweetened beverages, and more contain added sugars. Alarmingly, sweetened drinks are the leading source of added sugars in the American diet. Excess added sugar in the diet can lead to weight gain, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, tooth decay, and more.
Do you know the difference in sweetened drinks, 100% juice, and water? It’s important to know that added sugars are the primary ingredient in sweetened beverages like soda, fruit juices, chocolate milks, and sweetened drinks. While 100% juice is a better option, make sure it say no sugar added on the label and consume the recommended amount of 4 ounces. Do you need juice everyday? No. Juice boxes are a staple among little ones, and I get that they are easy. If you do use juice for kids, water it down to reduce the amount of sugar they get.
In an attempt to educate my son about sweetened beverages, I came up with the idea to infuse his favorite movie in the world into nutrition education. Sugar Wars was born! It’s a fun way to educate kids about sugar vocabulary and how to calculate the amount of sugar in their beverages. I do recommend the activity for 3rd grade and up. However, lower elementary grades can do the activity and have the teacher show them the amounts of sugar in each beverage. Letting kids scoop the teaspoons of sugar in a clear cup can drive the points home as well.
When I did this activity in front my son’s class, I dressed up like Princess Leia and brought my trusty lightsaber to point to the different products and vocabulary words. I had my son wear a Darth Vader mask as we enter the classroom with a bag of sugar. His goal: Recruit Sugar Troopers to drink more sweetened beverages. Darth Sugar was too late! Princess Leia (me) had made them into Sugar Jedis, masters at deciphering added sugars in drinks! Join the resistance! Become a Sugar Jedi and resist the Dark Side of too much added sugar!
I put together a quick video on my Facebook page so you can see some of the kit for yourself! If you like it, you can click on the link in the sidebar or under nutrition resources.
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American Heart Association
USDA, Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020
Author: Betsy Ramirez
Betsy is a registered dietitian/nutritionist, homeschool mom, & fairy tale junkie, who loves getting crafty. Being on my bike and lifting weights are my therapy. Thinking outside the box is my jam!