Sweet food and beverages are very well-liked by most children. However, what the Little One likes is not always necessarily beneficial for their health. Consuming food and beverages that contain sugar can lead to various health problems, including dental cavities, obesity, as well as diabetes mellitus.
In 2016, The America Heart Association, through their journal, Circulation, released a new recommendation regarding the consumption limits of added sugar for children, which is a maximum of six teaspoons per day. This recommendation is applicable for children aged two to eighteen years old. Six teaspoons of added sugar is equivalent to approximately 100 calories or 25 grams. “Our recommendation is the same for all children aged between two and 18 years of age. A maximum of six tea spoons of added sugar per day is a healthy limit for children. Children who consume too much added sugar tend to refuse consuming healthy food, such as fruits and vegetables,” explains Miriam Vos, MD, PH, nutrition scientist and associate professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, United States of America.
The experts who are involved in the aforementioned research also recommends that added sugar do not need to be included in the dietary menu of a child aged below two years old. Their calorie requirements are less than that compared to older children and adults. So, there is no need to consume food and beverages that contain added sugar as it does not contribute to fulfilling the good nutrients that they require. Accustoming them at an early age to not consume food and beverages that are excessively sweet will be beneficial for children in the long run as they will become used to the standard taste of healthy food.
This recommendation from The American Heart Association is only applicable for added sugar – sugar, honey, and others – not the natural sugar that is present in food containing complex carbohydrates such as fruits, cereals, and low fat milk. The Little One certainly still requires carbohydrates (sugars) to produce energy for learning, playing, and other activities. So, food containing complex carbohydrates should not be eliminated from their daily menu.
Soda and other beverages containing added sugars as sweeteners are the largest contributors of sugar in the food menu of the Little One. One can of soda can contain up to 8 teaspoons of sugar. Excessive sugar consumption within a period of time can lead to dental cavities, obesity, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other diseases that become a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Therefore, avoid serving sweet food and beverages to the Little One. As a snack, parents can also serve fruit slices. Also do not allow the Little One to consume soda or packaged juices. Instead, serve mineral water or homemade fruit juices that do not have added sugars, which are healthier.
As a menu for their main meals, parents can serve wheat sereals, low fat meat, fish, nuts and beans, vegetables, and low fat milk products.
Implementing a healthy lifestyle does require adaptation, but this does not mean that it is impossible. Habituation should be implemented from an early age, so that the Little One has a healthy eating pattern that will continue to proceed till adulthood. This will surely be an invaluable investment for the future of the Little One.
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