BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Navigating the aisles at the grocery store can be tricky, especially when looking for healthy options for children.
"Even very health-conscious parents don't realize how much added sugar is in child foods that seem to be very healthy based on their labeling," said Stephen Sanches, doctor at the Pediatric Clinic.
Added sugars are added to processed and prepared foods to make them taste better. Studies show too much added sugar increases inflammation in the body's arteries and other organs. It can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and eventually heart disease. That's why the American Heart Association got involved.
The organization released its first ever guidelines for how much added sugar children should consume. For kids ages 2 to 18, no more than six teaspoons per day. That's about 25 grams or 100 calories. Sugary beverages like sodas and sports drinks should be limited to one per week. And kids younger than 2 should have no added sugar at all.
"The beautiful thing about these guidelines is just how strict they are. It really re-emphasizes how easy it is to slip a few grams here and a few grams there of this added sugar," Sanches explained.
He said too much sugar can hurt a child's metabolism and change their palate. Sugar cravings are real, but they can be stopped.
"If (parents) can really start getting those kids onto a healthier diet, it starts snowballing in the right direction quickly. They start craving more healthy foods as they eat more healthy foods," he added.
By July of 2018 nutrition labels will help you make better choices. Added sugar will have its own line so you can see exactly how much is in every product. Until then, Sanches says stick with natural sugars like those found in milk, fruits, and vegetables.
Early studies suggest artificial sweeteners may not be a good substitute. Sanches recommends moderating natural sugar over the use of artificial sweeteners.