Here’s How Much Added Sugar Your Kids Are Eating

Have you ever calculated how much sugar your kids eat in a day? I’m a little afraid to, especially ever since the American Heart Association issued updated recommendations that limited kids’ sugar intake to less than 25 grams a day. Most American kids eat three times that amount! (BTW, experts recommend that kids younger than two years old eat no sugar at all).

Now, the appearance of newly redesigned nutrition labels are making our sugar consumption harder to ignore. The amount of added sugar per serving is clearly called out on the label under Total Sugars. That’s to distinguish it from any sugar that is naturally occurring in the food, such as fructose or lactose.

These new labels are meant to help us understand the amount of sugar in the foods we eat and feed our kids. Too much sugar can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and dental issues, and has been linked to asthma and cardiovascular issues, among other things. Not to mention the sugar highs and subsequent crashes we all experience when eating sweet things. I can trace many a behavior issue (theirs and mine) back to sugary treats.

Easy Ways to Cut Out Added Sugar

It can feel like an insurmountable challenge to cut sugar from your family’s diet. As you probably know, many of the processed foods we eat contain added sugars. Obviously, sweetened items like toaster pastries, flavored yogurt, and fruit snacks contain added sugars. But so do foods like whole wheat bread (three grams a slice in the brand I buy), jarred tomato sauce, and protein bars. Even the “healthy” organic bran flakes cereal my kids eat have four grams of sugar per serving. Those 25 grams of sugar add up very quickly, and often long before the dessert cart rolls around.


Whether you’re trying to get within the 25 gram recommendation or not, any amount of added sugar that you can cut is a win, right? Try these ways to curb the sugar consumption in your house:

  • Serve water, milk, or unsweetened plant milk, not juice. Treat juice (even the 100% fruit varieties) as a — wait for it — treat.
  • Buy fresh fruit and veggies and offer it at snack time in place of processed snacks like sweetened yogurt. Unsweetened applesauce, dried fruit, and toasted unsweetened coconut are other good swaps.
  • If your kiddos don’t love fruit, don’t despair, just try serving it in a new way. Shape banana slices into happy faces, alternate halved grapes with berries on a skewer, slice apples razor thin, or section oranges instead of cutting them.
  • Read labels on ready made meals, sandwich spreads, salad dressings, sauces, and dips. Choose brands and items that have the lowest amount of added sugar. Be sure to compare the serving sizes as well.
  • Consider using a sugar replacement like Stevia or monkfruit sweetener in your baked goods.
  • Offer foods high in protein and healthy fats to keep kids full, satisfied, and less likely to beg for sugary treats. Plain full-fat yogurt sprinkled with cinnamon and served with apple slices, cheese sticks and whole-grain crackers, and all-natural nut butter with celery sticks are some easy options.
  • Avoid breakfast cereal, instant oatmeal, granola bars, and just about any product specifically marketed to kids.
  • Don’t assume foods in the natural section are low in sugar. If a product doesn’t yet carry the new nutrition label, check the ingredients list. You don’t want to buy anything that lists sugar (or corn syrup, honey, rice syrup, etc.) near the top.

Are you trying to cut some of the sugar from your kiddos’ diets?

katie quirk

Katie Quirk Dunyon lives and writes in Seattle, WA with her husband, son, daughter, and a hamster named Turbo.