Is your teen consuming too much sugar? Learn how you can help them make good choices and reduce sugar intake!
Teens require additional nutrients because they are going through an intensive growth and maturation period. Iron and calcium are especially important. Low-fat milk is a great source of calcium for adolescents, and fortified milk is a good substitute for those that are dairy-free. They also need a diet that’s high in fiber, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seed, nuts, and healthy lean protein! Many teens need three meals per day with snacks, depending upon individual activity level, height, age, and sex. Sadly the calorie choices don’t always create the healthy bodies teens need!
Allowed Calorie Budget vs. Reality
Males ages 12– to 19–years-old consumed 442 calories per day from added sugar (17.5 % kcals for the day), and females consumed 314 added-sugar-calories (16.6% kcals for the day). Most of the added sugars consumed-around 59%-come from foods, but at 41% beverages aren’t far behind. Guess what parents? Surprisingly, more of the added sugar are consumed at home rather than outside the home. In fact, about 65% of total sugar calories were consumed at home. So help teens create an environment that makes health easily achieved by bringing the right foods into the house and showing teens how to make the best choices. Don’t try lecturing teens to talk sense into them, instead keep it short and keep it positive. To get more facts on sugar, visit CDC.gov – our tax dollars at work!
8 Ways for Teens to Cut Down on Sugar!
- Teach your teens to choose cereals with less than 6 grams of sugar per serving. If they prefer sugary cereals, look for ones sweetened with natural sweeteners like honey, such as Honey Nut O’s. Then have them mix it with 50% of their favorite plain cereal.
- Ask your teen to choose crackers that don’t contain sugar. Then briefly explain how sugar make starchy foods addictive, so you eat more and return to the store to buy more. Outsmart the makers! When talking to teens, keep it short –if they think it’s a lecture they’ll tune you out. Here’s a helpful guide to buying crackers.
- Read the ingredient list for foods like pretzels, breads and chips –find an option without added sugar.
- Cut back on store-bought condiments. Serve salsa or tomato sauce instead of ketchup or mix your own home-made sauce with ketchup.
- Choose dairy options that are naturally lower in sugar. Eight ounces of plain yogurt will show it has 15 grams of carbohydrate with 15 of those carbohydrate grams as sugar. That’s from naturally occurring milk sugar. However, many brands will sneak in extra sugar. So ask your kids if they’re up for the math challenge. Have them estimate how much table sugar is added to sweetened yogurts based on this baseline. Then choose the yogurts with the least added sugar. Often Greek yogurt will have less sugar. Encourage them to sweeten yogurt with fresh, dried, or heated fruits, such as baked apples, warmed frozen cherries, juicy cantaloupe, or dried fruit and nuts.
- Keep fresh fruit out that’s ready to eat and has eye appeal. Teens will go for what’s easy and available. If it’s washed, ready to eat, and close by, they’ll grab it!
- Buy 6-ounce juice glasses –it’s smaller and encourages the right size portion size. When you serve your own juice or theirs, lead by example dilute the juice with water.
- Make it easy: Fresh produce such as grapes, clementines, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and bananas are easy to eat, and kids aren’t getting enough! 28.5% of high school students ate fruit less than once per day and 33.2% ate vegetables less than once per day.
When talking to your kids about cutting back on sugar, focus on healthy eating and physical activity, not on “dieting.” Focusing too much on weight can increase the risk of developing a distorted body image or an eating disorder. Roughly 70%-80% of girls perceive themselves to be too fat. Encourage your kids to eat right so they can feel their best inside and out. Talk about all of the healthy and delicious options your teens can eat instead of focusing on what to cut out. Make sure to share in a family meal with your teen at least twice a week and