Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death in the United States and dental cavities remain the most chronic disease of children aged 5 to 17. Yet both these diseases can be prevented by limiting sugar intake.
Increased sugar intake contributes to both obesity, a risk factor for heart disease, and dental cavities. Sugar-sweetened beverages are currently one of the largest sources of added sugar in the diets of United States children. Common sugar-sweetened beverages are regular sodas, non-juice fruit juices, and sweetened milks.
Infants under 6 months old should not be given juice at all. From 6 months to 6 years of age, a child’s intake of fruit juice should be limited to four to six ounces per day, served from a cup, not a bottle. Children seven to eighteen years of age should limit fruit juice to eight to 12 ounces per day. Some pediatricians also recommend that juice be diluted further with water instead of giving just plain juice. Opt for 100 percent juice without added sugar. Although 100 percent juice does have some natural sugar, it usually also has some nutrients such as vitamin C. Check juice labels. Beware of juice labels containing “sucrose” or “high fructose corn syrup” which means sugar has been added to the juice.
Children need to consume two to three servings of dairy each day. Milk,, flavored or unflavored, is a source of Calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients for children. A cup of unflavored dairy milk contains about twelve grams of naturally occurring milk sugar (lactose). Flavored milks such as chocolate and strawberry usually contains about three to four more teaspoons of sugar than unflavored milk in each cup. Flavored milks are often sold in 16 ounce bottles, which is two servings. So a children drinking a 16 ounce bottle of flavored milk will ingest about six to eight teaspoons of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends no more than three teaspoons of added sugar each day for children.
Parents should try to avoid giving children soda as a drink. Soda does not have any nutrients and gives children unnecessary sugar and caffeine. A 12 ounce can of cola drink contains about ten teaspoons of sugar which is seven teaspoons more than the recommended amount of added sugar per day. If your child likes to consume soda as a special treat, you could give him/her an eight ounce can of soda instead of a 12 ounce can of soda. Many soda companies are now manufacturing the eight ounces of soda in addition to the twelve ounce soda cans. Also sipping soda all day can be more harmful than having the full serving at once.
Giving water as a thirst quencher in between meals can help your child decrease his/her juice intake. Water does not contain any sugar but does provide hydration. Drinking water will not cause obesity or dental cavities. Some children do not like to drink plain water but slices of lemon or oranges can naturally flavor the taste of water making it more appealing and better for their teeth and heart.