The low-down on high-sugar - PART II

Hi there folks!

I had lots of great responses from the first blog on sugar guidelines that I decided to follow-up with a sequel. Usually sequels never end up being as great as their predecessors ... but fingers crossed, I can make a sequel just as good as Matt Damon can :) 

Now that we know what kids should (or should not!) be consuming with regards to added sugar, let’s talk about how we can practically make these guidelines work for you and your kids. Because let's face it, sugar is everywhere and it will take some concerted effort to try to keep sugar on the "down-low".

To start though, let’s review. Here are the two main guidelines from the American Heart Association's (AHA) new guidelines for added sugar intake in children (1):


1)    Kids under 2 years – AVOID all added sugar. 

2)    Children/adolescents 2-18 years, no more than 6 tsp (25 grams) of added sugar per day.


What does 0 tsp or 6 tsp of added sugar look like?!


Conveniently, I have a 1.5-year-old and a 4-year-old, so let me breakdown what a typical day looked like for each of them this past week. Thanks to the help of "One Sweet App" (2) I was able to analyze their food and come up with a grand total amount of added sugar in their diet and then compare that to the recommendation for their age group. 


1.5 year old toddler, at home for the day: 

Breakfast (7:00 AM)

1 piece homemade whole wheat French toast dipped into plain yogurt, fresh mango, 3.25% Milk.

Lunch (11:00 AM)

Yellow pepper slices, cucumber sticks, hummus, Luke's organic crackers, canned wild pacific salmon with mayo, dried organic apricots, water.

Snack (2:00-3:00 PM)

Iogo Nano vanilla yogurt (60 grams) (1 tsp added sugar) with hemp seeds, apple slices with almond butter, 3.25% Milk. 

Dinner (5:30 PM)

Stuffed pasta shell with ricotta and spinach, topped with tomato sauce - 1 full shell, handful of green beans with butter, water. 

Bedtime Snack (6:30 PM)

Full piece of whole grain toast with natural PB and thin spread of jam (? 1/4 tsp added sugar)



As you can see, my 1.5-year-old had some added sugar in her diet through the yogurt that she had for snack. An alternative to completely eliminate the sugar would be to serve plain yogurt with fruit as a natural sweetener (or with apple sauce or pear sauce). We used to do this, but she has since caught on that her brother is allowed a flavoured yogurt and insists she also get this! (For some reason she hasn’t caught on with the maple syrup in the morning yet and still likes dipping her French toast into plain yogurt!) Pasta sauce can be another source of added sugar but the variety we buy (Simply Natural Organic) has no added sugar. 


4 year old, at Kindergarten for the day:

Breakfast (7:00 AM)

2 pieces of homemade whole wheat French toast dipped into 2 tsp maple syrup (2 tsp added sugar), fresh mango, 3.25% Milk.

Lunch (11:00 AM)

Yellow pepper slices, cucumber sticks, 10 Kashi Pita Crisp crackers (0.3 tsp added sugar), canned wild pacific salmon with mayo, green grapes, water.

Snack (2:00 PM)

Iogo Nano Vanilla yogurt (60 grams) (1 tsp added sugar), 1 homemade apricot snowflake ball, roasted chickpea and raisin mix.

Dinner (5:30 PM)

Stuffed pasta shell with ricotta and spinach, topped with tomato sauce - 4 full shells (took the ricotta/spinach mix out and stuffed with extra tomato sauce - he is my "learning" eater!), large serving of green beans with butter, water. 

Bedtime Snack (6:30 PM)

1/2 cup Cheerios (0.1 tsp added sugar) with sliced banana and 3.25% Milk



My son's sugar tally came in well below the 6 tsp cut-off, which is great. However, my goal for this little guy is under 3 tsp a day, since he is on the younger end of the 2-18 year age range. I would always aim for the lowest amount, while still allowing him some of his favourite foods and treats.


What about the Sugar-Sweetened Beverage (SSB) Guideline?


Ah yes, this is essentially targeting pop, energy drinks, sports drinks, juices, those sweetened coffee store beverages and all other sugar-ladden drinks!

Here are a few examples:

Coca Cola, 335 mL (1 can) = 9.3 tsp

Pepsi, 335 mL (1 can) = 9.8 tsp

Gingerly, 355 mL (1 can) = 7.6 tsp

Gatorade Perform, 591 mL (1 bottle) = 8.3 tsp

Red Bull Energy Drink, 250 mL (1 can) = 6.4 tsp

Fruitopia, 341 mL (1 can) = 7.1 tsp

Needless to say, it is easy to see why these beverages need to be limited to less than one 8 oz (250 mL) serving or less per week! Just one of these drinks sends a child above their limit for the entire day ... and then some!


Where else is sugar lurking?

Just check the ingredient list for the words that mean sugar – as listed in part I.

Remember to think of the less obvious foods like condiments (i.e. ketchup, relish, BBQ sauce), breakfast foods (i.e. flavoured oatmeal, cereals), dairy products (i.e. sweetened yogurt and yogurt drinks), and my personal favourite – granola bars … (shudder). I am not sure how we convinced people that granola bars are a 'health' food.


And don’t be fooled by “healthy” sounding labels!

For example, one might think that Multigrain Cheerios would be superior to regular Cheerios. That would make logical sense wouldn't it? After all, they are "multigrain"...

Insert evil cackle here …. 

Multigrain Cheerios actually has almost two and a half times the amount of added sugar as the regular Cheerios, and no more fibre!

And all of the organic foods on the market? Well, they may contain organic ingredients, which is great, but do not equate an organic label with meaning it is a healthier product all around. In fact, some organic foods have more sugar than their conventional counterparts.


What about adults? What's our limit for added sugars?

Oops! Sorry about that! I should have mentioned this earlier! The AHA came out with guidelines back in 2009 (3) which recommended limiting added sugars to:

  • less than 6 tsp per day for women
  • less than 9 tsp per day for men

Therefore, as you can see, this is certainly not something that only our children need to work on but it is something that we, collectively, need to work on together as a family unit. 


I'm overwhelmed! Where is the best place to start?!

The best place to start is with you!

There is lots of research to tell us that what we model as parents, caregivers, and guardians makes a BIG DEAL to the eating patterns and habits that our children develop. So take a look at what's in your cupboards and see if there are a few things that you might be able to get rid of or substitute for some healthier options!

Need some help? No problem! We are here to help. Contact us today!




1.  Vos MB, Kaar JL, Welsh JA, Van Horn LV, Feig DI, Anderson CAM, Patel MJ, Munos JC, Krebs NF, Xanthakos SA, Johnson RK. Added sugars and cardiovascular disease risk in children: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2016;134:XXX-XXX.

2.  OneSweetApp. Accessed September 16, 2016.

3. Johnson RK, Appel LJ, Brands M, Howard BV, Lefevre M, Lustig RH, Sacks F, Steffen LM, Wylie-Rosett J. Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2009;120:1011-1020.