We've written about the dangers of sugar before. And shared some of our own personal favorite sugar-free recipes. It is nice when conventional wisdom slowly begins to swing around to our "side".
This week, the American Heart Association published their updated guidelines for how much sugar kids should be eating. It is amazing to think that limiting sugar was hardly even in the conversation a generation ago.
“I hope our recommendations help parents feel more confident limiting sugar." - American Heart Association
The AHA guidelines put the maximum amount of sugar kids 2-18 should be having at 6 teaspoons a day and less than 8 oz of sugary beverages PER WEEK. The world health organization recommends an even smaller amount (as it should be)
This is a SMALL amount of sugar... the daily maximum of added sugar is the same amount of total sugar found in 1/3 a cup of dried cranberries.
For kids under age 2? A firm zero sugar.
From the linked article: "Studies linking added sugars and conditions that lead to cardiovascular disease – the No. 1 cause of death in the world – have been around for years. Diets high in added sugars have been connected to heart risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol levels.
A 2014 study published in JAMA: Internal Medicine was one of the first to tie too much sugar to an increased risk of dying from heart disease. The study said people who ate slightly more than average added sugar (17-23%) had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who ate half of the average amount their calories from added sugar. (8%)"
Way to go AHA!
In addition to added sugars, we limited natural sugars and carbohydrates that would quickly breakdown into sugars in the gut. The recommendations to avoid only 'added' sugar is really just silly... 100% fruit juice, honey, bread and even potatoes are similar to sugar from a digestive standpoint. We limited carbohydrates with the exception of vegetables and fermented dairy (cheese, yogurt, keifer).
"No you can't have another apple until you eat some sort of fat to balance out the meal... you'll just crash and be grumpy in an hour."
Young bodies need lots of saturated fats and fat soluble vitamins to grow and develop body and mind. Our brains are 60% fat, not so much sugar.
I think the real goal we had as parents was to recognize that sugar is really addictive and destructive to mental and physical health. If we give our kids a sweet tooth as youngsters, we are choosing to get their brains addicted just like if we gave them caffeine or any other addictive drug.
Not sure about this? Try to go 100% sugar free in your home for 25 days. No honey, no added sugar in your ketchup or yogurt. Nothing. Ideally you'd also cut any simple carbohydrates that act like sugar in your body (breads, pasta of any sort, etc).
If you're able to do that, watch how the behavior of everyone changes over that timeframe. First you'll think 'no big deal'... then after a few days, everyone feels grumpy and even 'low sugar' kids are probably unmanageable. The second week is probably the worst and at about 21 days your body should be through the worst of the withdrawal.
Then... Just try to give the kids (and you) five chocolate chips after lunch and see how they act when no more sugar is available the rest of the day.
You'll quickly realize life is MUCH easier without sugar.
Getting there is hard, but I can tell you how much simpler our lives are the times we are without any added sugar in our home.
Even if you replace sugars with starchy carbohydrate foods, your kids will still be almost immediately healthier according to the findings in this striking study.
Imagine how much healthier they'd be if those carbs were replaced with healthy saturated fats like we discuss here. Did you know that fats make up most of the calories in human breast milk? Most of that is saturated fats too... the perfect food for a growing body.
These treats still have sugar... just a natural sugar which is somewhat better on your body than refined sugars. Refined sugars have had the nutrients removed from them which our bodies need to absorb their energy. More on why that matters in another post.
What do you think about the new guidelines?
Has your family tried to go sugar-free? I know a number of you have written to me personally to share about your family's attempts at going sugar-free. Have any tips? Share them below!