How to cut your child's sugar intake

Apr 17, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. ET

A recent report by the CDC shows that sugar makes up 16 percent of the total daily caloric intake for children and adolescents, exceeding the recommended amount of 15 percent of fat and sugar combined.

So, are you taking a good look at the food and drinks you're giving your kiddo or are your children destined to become victims of child obesity? From hidden sources of sugar to how to choose the best sources of the sweet treat, discover tips on how to cut your child's sugar intake without banning it all together.

Look for hidden sources of sugar

Some foods are obvious offenders when it comes to boosting your youngster's daily caloric intake. However, Dr. Barry Sears, a leading authority in anti-inflammatory nutrition and creator of the Zone Diet, warns you to keep hidden sources of sugar in mind when looking to cut your child's intake. "Hidden sources [of sugar can be found in] any processed food, since sugar is often used as a preservative to prevent bacterial growth. Other sources are bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes -- all of which enter the blood more rapidly as glucose than does table sugar." Along with cookies, sodas and candies, remember that serving up too much of these good-for-you foods can also over-sugar your sweetie pie.

Pick up tips on gardening for picky eaters >>

Uncover foods and drinks masked as healthy

You may be surprised some of the so-called healthy fare you're feeding your kids are actually loaded with sugar. Registered dietitians such as Lori Reamer of The Food That Fits, warns you to be aware of seemingly healthy sugar-laden foods such as:

  • Flavored yogurts and yogurt drinks
  • Sports beverages
  • Cereals
  • Granola bars
  • Dried cranberries
  • Flavored milks like chocolate and strawberry
  • "Organic" treats that boast organic ingredients but still contains organic sugar
  • Energy bars
  • Juice and juice drinks
  • Fruit snacks
  • Sweetened applesauce
  • Instant sweetened oatmeal

Although these foods contain healthy benefits along with the extra calories, ignoring this often overlooked ingredient can lead to child obesity.

Be picky

While punch and cookies are packed with added sugar, the extra sweetness in foods such as whole grain cereals or yogurt are not as bad as candy in the grand scheme of things. Rule of thumb: When the benefits outweigh the added pearls of sweetness, it's OK to serve up in moderation versus handing over a candy bar when your child is looking for a sugar fix.

Should you force your toddler to eat? >>

Overall, the key to reducing the likelihood your child will fall victim to childhood obesity is moderation. Julie Glass from Health from the Heart, LLC, advises learning how to cut your child's sugar intake starts with a little reading. "A helpful strategy for parents is to read labels and avoid products with ingredients such as sugar, corn syrup and/or high fructose corn syrup. Making snacks and food at home is the best way for parents to regulate a child's sugar intake and provide nutrient dense meals." And, since banning sugar all together is more of a fantasy than a reality, the answer is to balance out the sticky yet yummy ingredient with more whole foods, fresh produce and a little planning.

More on child development and health

ADHD: Overdiagnosed and overmedicated
Is red meat safe for children?
Could the foods your child eats cause bad behaviors?