Commit to be fit: Put a lid on added sugar for you and your family

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Children between the ages of 2 and 18 should consume less than 25 grams (or six teaspoons) of added sugar daily, according to the American Heart Association. Unfortunately, most American children eat far more than the recommended daily allowance.

The hazards of too much added sugar in a person’s diet have been compared to the health hazards of smoking cigarettes. Consistently consuming too much added sugar contributes to cavities, weight gain, obesity, increased risk of diabetes, an impaired immune system, heart disease and even some cancers.

Monitor your child’s intake of added sugar by looking at the new Nutrition Facts label.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently updated the nutritional panel on many foods so consumers can easily see how much added sugar a food product contains.

Before the label change, different types of sugar were lumped into a total sugars category, making it almost impossible to decipher how much natural sugar (like natural lactose in yogurt) or added sugar a product contained. The new label now clearly states how much added sugar is in a food product.

A moderate amount of sugar is OK. Again, look at labels to calculate added sugar.

Personally, I have found that when I keep my sugar intake to no more than 18 grams of added sugar a day, with no more than 6 grams at any one time, I am able to avoid sugar cravings.

Making the transition away from sugar-laden foods may be difficult at first, but it’s important if you want to improve your family’s health and wellbeing.

Benefits of staying away from added sugar include fewer highs and lows, less moodiness, healthier teeth and skin, less brain fog, better cognition, increased immunity to disease and an improved ability to handle stress.

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Here are some ideas for healthy sweet treats for you and your family:

Real fruit

Satisfy your child’s sweet tooth with real fruit. Keep real fruit in plain sight: apples, bananas, oranges, pears, blueberries, strawberries, etc., and keep the junk food out of sight. When your diet contains too much sugar, the natural sweetness of fruit is sabotaged.

Reinvent peanut butter and jelly

Peanut butter is a great source of protein, but jelly is typically loaded with sugar. One tablespoon of grape jelly has a whopping 13 grams of sugar, that’s 26 grams of sugar if you use one tablespoon for each piece of toast.

Get creative with your toppings. Top your next open-faced peanut butter toast with sliced bananas, strawberries or blueberries. Or spread some avocado on toast — it’s full of healthy fats, and my 2-year-old and I both love it.

Five-ingredient energy balls

• 1 cup uncooked oats

• 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

• 2 tablespoons honey

• 1/4 cup ground flax seed

• 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Place the ingredients in a bowl and stir until combined. Use a cookie scoop or tablespoon and round mixture into balls before placing them on the baking sheet. Place in freezer until energy balls are firm and then store in a resealable plastic bag or a covered container. Great for breakfast, snacks or even dessert.

Three-ingredient oatmeal cookies

This is a fun, easy and healthy spin on cookies.

Bonus: it’s peanut allergy friendly. Chances are you already have these ingredients in your house.

• 2 large ripe bananas

• 1 cup uncooked oats

• 1/3 cup chocolate chips (or use coconut, cranberries, raisins, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine mashed bananas, oats and your add-in ingredient (I chose mini chocolate chips). Spoon tablespoons of mixture onto a cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until edges are brown. Toddler, husband and hungry mom approved!

• Kylie Alger is a certified wellness coach and co-owner of the Well-Woman: Body, Mind & Spirit. Comments: kylie@thewellwoman.org

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