At some point all children will ingest refined sugar, but putting it off for as long as possible should be every parent’s goal. In fact, a recent study by the USDA suggests that refined sugars are so harmful to the development of children, they should be completely avoided before the age of two. Some doctors and scientists argue that children’s developing bodies are much more vulnerable to the dangers of sugar in comparison to adults leaving them more exposed to a number of lifelong health conditions.
In addition, research shows that the more we consume sugar, the more we crave it, and children are no exception. One of the problems of modern society is that refined sugars are often hidden in our foods and masked with healthy nicknames, making it difficult for parents to really know how much sugar they’re giving their kids. From honey to agave nectar, here are some of the most notable sugar monikers lurking in your pantry.
When you think of honey, you might be like me and envision fresh honey dripping down the honeycomb. Honey is sweeter than sugar and has a number of nutrients — zinc, iron and potassium to name a few. This is why it’s commonly used in kid-friendly snacks; manufacturers need less of it and parents often think of it as a healthy option. However, unbeknownst to parents, much of the honey used to sweeten kid-friendly snacks has been highly processed and stripped of nutrients. In the end, you’re left nothing but the sugar. Also, honey is often combined with cheaper varieties of refined sugars within the same product, thus negating the potential benefits of honey on its own.
2. Cane Juice
Cane juice is extracted from pressed sugarcane. Though this sweet beverage is known to have natural antioxidants and nutrients, it’s incredibly high in sugar. One cup of cane juice has 50 grams of sugar! The nutrients found in cane juice don’t outweigh the sugar content, which is why it should be cut from your child’s diet.
3. Agave Syrup
Agave syrup has the least amount of sugar per tablespoon on this list, only 9.5 grams, but that doesn’t make it any healthier. Its high fructose content can have negative effects on the liver, and is considered risky for those with diabetes. Just like honey, agave syrup is another sweetener that is often stripped down just for its sugar content.
4. Fancy Molasses
Molasses is made from sugarcane or sugar beet juice, and often used as a sugar substitute. Though it’s considered slightly better-for-you — unlike white sugar, molasses contains some nutrients — it has been linked to a variety of health concerns when consumed in excess. It’s a common ingredient in healthy children’s snacks due to its sweetness, but don’t let this sugar moniker fool you. The nuances between pure sugar and fancy molasses are illusive. One tablespoon of molasses has 16 grams of sugar, that’s more than half of the daily sugar intake suggested for children aged two to 18.
Completely cutting sugar from your child’s diet may be nearly impossible but knowing how much sugar they consume is the first step to healthier diet habits. Next time you’re shopping online or in-store, take the time to read the ingredients and nutrition labels. You may be surprised that companies often use several types of sugar to sweeten one product, thus reducing the perception of sugar being the main ingredient. If you’re unsure of which sugar monikers are being used, check how many grams of sugar are in one portion. Children and youth should have no more than 25 grams of sugar per day — approximately two tablespoons — which could be found in one serving of flavored yogurt or even pasta sauce.
Brad Woodgate is the Founder and CEO of No Sugar Company. He recently launched his debut book, No Sugar In Me, a look into the world of sugar and sugar substitutes. He spent the last 21 years in the nutrition industry, launching over 700 healthy products. In 2019, he made it his mission to raise awareness of the world’s sugar problem and offer sustainable solutions to those who wish to live a no sugar lifestyle for adults and children alike. You can connect with him on Instagram @nosugarco.ceo.