How Much Sugar is Recommended for Children Per Day?

Sugar can be dangerous if not properly regulated. We'll tell you how much is necessary and how to limit it and switch to a healthier lifestyle for your children.
How Much Sugar is Recommended for Children Per Day?
Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor

Written and verified by the nutritionist Maria Patricia Pinero Corredor.

Last update: 24 October, 2022

Sugar is a basic ingredient in human nutrition since time immemorial. Its sweet taste is attractive to most people, especially the youngest ones. It’s at this point that parents wonder how much sugar is recommended for children per day.

The amount they ingest should be a major concern. However, few parents investigate this reality and believe that regulating it to what they feel is appropriate is the right thing to do.

The problem is that they don’t know that sugar is hidden in most processed foods. They’re also unaware that children are possibly consuming more sugar than suggested. So, keep reading to learn about the foods that contain sugar and how to regulate them.

What is sugar, and what is its function in the body?

In chemistry, sugar is a type of carbohydrate that’s also known as sucrose. It’s made up of two molecules: fructose and glucose.

It’s also known as table sugar. It’s obtained mainly from sugar cane or sugar beet.

When we consume common sugar, we break it down into these molecules so that glucose yields all the energy needed by the cells to function. The brain, for example, uses it as its exclusive fuel.

Its consumption and replenishment are not only limited to physical activity. It’s also necessary for thinking and any kind of mental exercise. After all, sugar is the nutrient that provides the body with energy the fastest.

There are other types of sugar, as well, sin addition to sucrose, glucose, and fructose:

  • Galactose
  • Lactose: the sugar naturally occurring in milk
  • Maltose: product of starch digestion

Sugar is also found in natural foods, such as fruits and honey. However, in the case of other food products, it’s often added as part of the preparation. Therefore, you may be unknowingly ingesting sugar.

Some names of ingredients that are sources of sugar are as follows:

  • Molasses
  • Grape sugar
  • Cane syrup
  • rice syru
  • Invert sugar
  • Unrefined sugar
  • Carob syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Dehydrated cane sugar
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)

Some foods and beverages contain a lot of sugar. For this reason, it’s necessary to watch their consumption in children since a good part of them are their favorites, such as the following:

  • Ice cream
  • Soft drinks
  • Candy
  • Marshmallows
  • Chocolate bars
  • Breakfast cereals
sugar recommended for children
Candy is often requested by children as a treat or asked for as a reward. Its effects on the body are harmful.

What happens to children when they eat too much sugar?

When you already have enough energy, the body stores sugar in the form of fat to have it as a reserve. This is how you gain weight, and that’s one of the biggest reasons to regulate your sugar consumption. Here are some more reasons.

It can cause a nutritional imbalance

Another reason it’s recommended to reduce sugar intake is that excess can cause nutritional imbalance. Some authors point out that sugar can displace other nutrients in the diet, and deficiencies of some vitamins and minerals are likely to occur. In fact, when 1688 British children aged 4-18 years were analyzed, they were found to have a sugar intake 23% above the recommended level. At the same time, they consumed, on average, 14% less of other important micronutrients.

Sugar is linked to obesity

There is another important factor in keeping sugar intake in check. This is the relationship between sugar and obesity.

Excessive sugar consumption is converted into fat that’s not burned due to sedentary lifestyles. It’s estimated that 8% of children in the world are obese, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

It’s a risk factor for tooth decay

Another aspect that is affected in children is dental health. Frequent consumption of simple carbohydrates is associated with the appearance of cavities. As well as the frequent consumption of soft drinks with sugar. However, it’s a process that’s interconnected with poor dental cleaning. What is known so far is that poor oral hygiene predisposes to the appearance of cavities.

It’s associated with diabetes, hyperactivity, and addiction

Although there are no studies that say that diabetes and insulin resistance is due to sugar intake, it’s known that prolonged and excessive consumption of sugary drinks is a risk factor for the development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Similarly, it has been observed that sugar can produce hyperactivity. A meta-analysis revealed changes in a subgroup of children, but more studies are needed. In addition, sugar can create addictions. This is because it modifies the brain’s reward system. When too much sugar is given, the brain generates dopamine. Something similar to what happens with recreational drugs.

Currently, the scientific community makes recommendations regarding the regulation of added free sugars and not total sugars. The Nutrition Committee of the European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) recommends limiting and reducing sugar intake to less than 5% of daily energy intake for children and adolescents aged 2-18 years. The reference table would look like this:

  • 2-4 years: 15 to 16 grams per day
  • 4-7 years: 18 to 20 grams daily
  • 7-10 years: 22 to 23 grams daily
  • 10-13 years: from 24 to 27 grams daily
  • 13-15 years: 27 to 32 grams per day
  • 15-19 years: 28 to 37 grams per day

Like this article? You may also like to read: Excessive Salt or Sugar Intake: Which Is Worse for Your Health?

As a parent, you are probably wondering: But how can I reduce the amount of sugar in my child’s diet? Here are some techniques to manage it.

Limit added sugars

Eliminate added sugars and industrial pastries. This refers to store-bought snacks. The best way to do this is to reduce the amount you give them little by little until you remove them completely.

the baked goods industry
Try to eliminate industrially-produced pastries and snacks from your home. This way, this extra sugar won’t be available to children.

Use sugar substitutes

Do you give your children sugar-laden snacks? You can substitute this with healthy snacks, such as nuts, yogurt, fresh fruit, or homemade porridge.

Restrict the visibility of sweets

The less a child sees of sweets, the less he or she will crave them. So, avoid the candy area in the supermarket and control their exposure to commercials where they appear.

Teach your child healthy eating

Eating healthy is a habit that’s taught within the family. Therefore, a healthy diet is recommended, based on the reduction of sugars and a good intake of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates for adults and children who share their meals together.

Read the labels of products

Before buying something that says “low sugar” or “light,” read the label and make sure that it doesn’t really have sugar. The name may be hidden behind those listed above.

How to make healthy snacks

Fruits contain fructose, glucose, but also sucrose. Some contain more than others.

You can make healthy snacks using them. Here’s a recipe for your child to enjoy and stay within the sugar limit recommended for children.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of water
  • Ripe banana
  • A pinch of salt
  • Grated carrot
  • 1/2 vegetable oil
  • 1 cup and 1/2 cup of oatmeal

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a blender, put the ripe banana with the egg and oil. Blend and then add the grated carrot, along with the water.
  2. Next, slowly add the oatmeal while spooning the mixture. It should be smooth and liquid. In the end, add a pinch of salt.
  3. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. You can make it as a banana cake or as muffins.

This is an added sugar-free dessert. Plus, the riper the banana is, the sweeter it is. The carrot is also sweet, so it will give it a characteristic touch that you can take advantage of!

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