How Much Sugar Is In These Common Processed Foods?

Health & Wellness on 03.09.12
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Photo Credit: George Doyle/Thinkstock

We all know that kids like sugar.  As parents, we do our best to offer them sweets in moderation and try not to cringe when they experience the crazy sugar highs that follow.  But most of us do not realize the huge amounts of sugar that everyday processed foods contain. 

USA Today just covered a study about kids consuming more added sugar from processed foods than drinks. The study concluded that kids ate an average of 322 calories per day of added sugars, which is 16% of their daily calories.  The American Heart Association recommends kids consume no more 100-150 kcals (or 6 teaspoons) from sugar daily. In the past, I have discussed the extra calories kids get from juice and most of you know that soda packs on the pounds.  But, this study reminds us that sugar is added to most processed foods - even the ones that are not considered desserts or sweets.

Keep in mind that lots of foods contain naturally occurring sugars. Healthy foods like whole grains contain complex carbohydrates that break down into sugar in our bodies.  Dairy foods have lactose and fruits have fructose, both naturally occurring sugars.  The brain needs some sugar to function properly so these naturally occurring sugars are just fine.  What we need to look out for is added sugars and how much your kids crave them.  These added sugars count as empty calories and can take the place of "real" foods with nutrients your kids need.

Just take a look at the worrying amounts of sugar that can be found in common, processed foods.

How Much Added Sugar Is In These Kid Favorites

Tomato Sauce: 2.5 teaspoons sugar in 1/2 cup
Ketchup: 1 teaspoon sugar in 1 tablespoon
Pre-packaged Muffin: 8 teaspoons sugar
Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal: 2.5 teaspoons sugar in 3/4 cup cereal
Yogurt Squeezers: 2.25 teaspoons sugar
Coke: 10 teaspoons sugar in 12ounces  (not to mention this is High Fructose Corn Syrup)
Chicken Nuggets: 1 teaspoon for 3 nuggets
Nature's Valley Granola Oats n' Honey: 3 teaspoons in in package
Whole Wheat Bread: 1 teaspoon per slice
Boxed Mac and Cheese: 2 teaspoons for 1 cup
Lunchable: 2-3 teaspoons sugar
Applesauce Single Servings: 5 teaspoons sugar
Pop Tart: 3 teaspoons in 1 pastry
Happy Meal (hamburger and small fries): 2 teaspoons sugar

We eat mostly whole foods at my house, but of course, we eat our fair share of processed foods too.  I have to ask myself if I would ever give my toddler a teaspoon of sugar.  Obviously, the answer is no.  But when you really consider the amount of sugar in these processed foods, it puts the whole concept of added sugars into perspective.

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