Yesterday I shared about our challenge to cut back on the sweets in our home.
According to the American Heart Association children should limit added sugar to less than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) a day.
To put it in perspective that is half a bag of skittles. So I did a rough estimate of what I thought my kids were consuming per day. I’ll put the grams of sugar in parentheses.
Let’s say my son started his morning with a cup of watered down 100% apple juice (12) and a chocolate chip eggo waffle (5), then for lunch had one more cup of juice (12) and a peanut butter and jelly (7) with a side of grapes, and go-gurt (10). Then at dinner he had mac and cheese (3) with broccoli and two Oreo cookies(7) for dessert.
That would equal 56 grams of sugar or 14 teaspoons and I was being really conservative with that number. When you calculate snacks or second helpings of food or drink it’s probably a lot more. No wonder the average American child eats 21 teaspoons of sugar a day (84 grams). Most children are consuming more than triple the recommended amount of sugar.
There isn’t one magic amount that works for all sizes of kids ages 4 to 8. So I am not about to start measuring food and counting teaspoons, but when I realized just how bad it had gotten with my family back in 2014 I knew I needed to do something.
When it came to a healthy diet we weren’t even in the right ball park or zip code for that matter. That was until we started our sugar project and began to tackle one offender per month.
We started with the biggest culprit, JUICE (24 g). Even though we were drinking the 100% natural, no added anything, fruit in a bottle and diluting it, it didn’t matter. The more I learned about this sugar epidemic, the more I became aware that the good stuff in it doesn’t outweigh all the sugar that our bodies absorb the exact same as it would if it were sugar from a milk shake. Dr. Jason Gill is one of the many researchers to talk about the misconceptions of fruit juice being a healthy alternative to soda. He says “One glass of fruit juice contains substantially more sugar than one piece of fruit; in addition, much of the goodness in fruit – fiber, for example – is not found in fruit juice, or is there in far smaller amounts,”
So we replaced juice with water and it was difficult at first, but it didn’t take long before it wasn’t an issue at all.
In February we replaced packaged chocolate chip muffins and cookies (17 g)with home made treats. When I have to make them myself we eat them far less often!
In March we eliminated chocolate milk (24 g) and I think at this point my kids were ready to eliminate me! They still get to have it when their mémé or grandma comes to town and treats them to a happy meal though.
In April I cut out fruit snacks (10 g). I am not proud of the fact that I bribe my kids, but it happens. I like to call fruit snacks hush money. Truth be told I still get a box of fruit snacks on rare occasions when I have a parent teacher meeting that I know they have to quietly sit through. For the most part though we’ve replaced all fruit snacks with actual fruit.
Sugary cereals (12 g) bit the dust in May. We still eat cereal, but nothing with over 9 grams of sugar per serving.
Eggos/poptarts (19 g)were a real doozy for us. My kids love them and their so easy, but SO bad for you. In it’s place I sometimes make homemade waffles or pancakes which can then be refrigerated and heated for convenience during the week. Or more often I just scramble a few eggs. Everyone once in a while I cave and buy some smores pop tarts. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine believe it or not, but that happens maybe four times a year.
My kids used to love go-gurt (10 g), but they are loaded with sugar. So in July, bye bye go-gurt. Instead we eat slices or cubes of cheese on the go.
By August I was feeling like we were pretty much were we needed to be. I cut out granola bars (7 g) but at this point we weren’t really eating them anyway.
In September I decided to ditch Break and Bake cookies (7 g). This was my vice. I’d be completely lying if I said I haven’t had any break and bake cookies in two years, but it’s a special treat and not a habit now.
After the sugar project our average day of meals look more like this
A bowl of quaker oats cereal for breakfast (9 g), cheese tortilla with fruit and water for lunch, a mini ice-cream cone after school (11 g), water, chicken nuggets, carrots, and watermelon for dinner.
That knocks it down to 20 grams a day, less than half of what they were eating before. I feel like it’s a very doable alternative that has so far been successful for our family of 6. Now if I could just get my four year old to eat green beans we’d be all set.
This post is a part of my series Captain of the Kitchen. You can catch up on all the other 5 posts here if you are interested.