We all love to throw the term around, “Everything in moderation,” but that’s almost impossible with sugar. That yummy, white, sandy substance is in just about everything we eat these days. Well, unless you’re a vegan or have the will power of a bull, which is just not me.

Truthfully, I’m pretty lax when my boy cries for his cookies. Though I do think that darn Cookie Monster is a bad role model for all of us! My husband, on the other hand, is not so keen about our boy’s sugar intake. He’s a bit more adamant about not letting him have too much sugar everyday, and he’s probably right.

We have a dear mom friend we see a few times a week, along with her daughter who is basically our boy’s little girlfriend. The girl is a little underweight so the mom is always trying to fatten her up with cookies, chocolate and cakes. If only I had that problem! So anyway, of course if she’s eating sweets around my boy, I can’t deny him? That would be a form of toddler torture.

Toddlers should consume only 17 grams of sugar per day, according to the American Heart Association. That means no more than about 4 teaspoons per day for pre-schoolers. In a resent study, the AHA found that kids 1-3-years-old were having 12 teaspoons a day. And when a kid reached 4-6 years of age, they were having about 21 teaspoons a day, which is crazy. 

My nutritionist friend said instead to limit added sugars to 10% of our total calorie intake. Added sugars are considered substances like white sugar, honey, corn syrup, agave, etc., that get placed into our food. Shockingly, she also told me that added sugars are not marked on nutrition labels. Meaning the amount of sugar listed on the label, includes both natural and added sugar. A law has been passed to change these sneaky sugar labeling ways, but it hasn’t gone into effect yet. So make sure to check your ingredients lists to see if any form of sugar has been added. 

On a sugar side note, my son eats raisins like they are going out of stock, and he used to love craisins too. My friend said raisins are fine because they have no added sugar, but warned that those craisins have extra white sugar in them. Of course, that makes sense since cranberries are beyond bitter.

Here are some common foods our kids love and their sugar intake:

  • Oatmeal Raisin Cookie — 4 grams of added sugar per cookie.
  • Chobani Blueberry on the Bottom Greek Yogurt 5.3 oz (150g) container or Dannon Fruit on the Bottom Blueberry Yogurt — 11/12 grams of added sugar.
  • Juice — Has a concentrated natural sugar, which is fruit minus the fiber. Drinking juice teaches your kids to like that concentrated sweet taste, which has too many extra calories, so stay away!
  • Maple Syrup — 12.4 grams in a tablespoon. Wow!
  • Jam  A teaspoon contains about 4 grams of added sugar.

We hear such horror stories about sugar, but why exactly is it so bad for you? And why is everything so bad for you so freakin good? O.K., that’s for another blog post. For one, sugar has a lot of calories and no nutrients. Second, it gets broken down to glucose and fructose. Apparently our bodies have no real need for fructose and it has to be metabolized by our liver. This process overloads our liver and can lead to a fatty liver and other sorts of health issues. 

My poor liver. I must keep my little boy’s organ’s pure and strong for as long as I possibly can. In meantime, I’ll let him have a cookie or two with his little love. But I might have to start baking them on my own and sweetening them with pineapple or bananas. They’re still too young to know the difference, right?!

Actually, I’ll try to get back to that idea of moderation, but at least I now have a better understanding of what that means. Information is powerful, and will help me stay strong when my baby cries for his sweets, and when my husband cries because I’m giving them to him!