What foods and beverages are the main sources of added sugars in Americans' diets?
Sugar-sweetened beverages including regular soft drinks, sports drinks and fruit drinks (fruitades and fruit punch); syrup; candy; cakes and cookies; dairy desserts and milk products (ice cream, sweetened yogurt, and sweetened milk).
Does this mean I should avoid all soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages?
You can choose how to spend your discretionary calories. Regular soft drinks are the No. 1 source of added sugars in Americans’ diets. A 12-ounce can of regular soda contains an estimated 130 calories (or 8 teaspoons) of added sugars. People who consume lots of sugar- sweetened beverages eat too many sugar calories and tend to gain weight. Carefully monitor the number of calories you get from sodas and other sources of added sugars.
How do added sugars affect the quality of an individual’s diet?
Some studies show that eating large amounts of added sugars is associated with diets low in calcium, vitamin A, iron and zinc. Also, diets that are high in added sugars are typically low in fiber. This is important because increasing dietary sources of fiber is associated with decreasing energy intake, which can result in weight loss.
What is the American Heart Association’s recommendation for sugar-sweetened beverages?
The American Heart Association recommends that all Americans consume no more than 450 calories (36 ounces) per week from sugar-sweetened beverages (based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet).
Are certain types of added sugars or sweeteners better than others?
The AHA hasn’t taken a position for or against certain types of added sugars or sweeteners, but we will continue to assess the science on this topic and any relevance to the impact on cardiovascular disease.
Since diet sodas and other products made with non-nutritive (artificial) sweeteners contain zero calories from added sugars, does that mean they can be consumed freely?
You can drink diet sodas in moderation, but they don’t give you any nutrition and shouldn’t be used to excuse overindulging with other foods. Balance them with plain water and a variety of foods and beverages that are high in nutrients and low in added sugars. Just because a product is “sugar free” or made with non-nutritive (artificial) sweeteners doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s healthy.
Packing the kids’ lunches for school means you know which nutritious foods they are eating – unless they trade or trash their lunch instead! Swap out your child’s drink choice in their lunchbox with something healthier – this can be switching from soda to juice, or from juice to water. Here are some budget-friendly, creative ideas to keep kids happy and healthy at lunchtime:
Make a Smarter Sandwich
While some kids prefer the same thing every day, others may be OK with a slight switch to their sandwich.
• Use different breads like 100% whole wheat tortilla wraps (choose wraps low in saturated and trans fats) or 100% whole wheat pita pockets.
• Besides lettuce, try shredded carrots or avocado slices with a turkey or lean roast beef sandwich.
• Buy store brand blocks of low fat, low sodium cheeses. You save money when you slice it yourself. Or use a cookie cutter to cut into fun shapes.
• Instead of lunchmeat, try leftover grilled chicken, lean pork or an egg white salad sandwich.
• Always pack sandwiches with a mini cooler pack to keep them fresh and safe.
Love those Leftovers
Think about using the leftovers from a family favorite dinner for a next day lunch. Invest in a thermos to keep foods hot or cold until the lunch bell rings. Some ideas:
• Low sodium tomato, vegetable or bean soups
• Chili made with lean or extra lean ground meat or turkey
• Whole wheat spaghetti with low sodium tomato sauce
• Low sodium baked beans, bean casserole or beans & rice
Let Them Dunk
Sometimes it’s OK to let your kids play with their food, especially when they are getting extra nutrition. Try packing one of these fun dunks with dippers:
• Apple and pear slices to dip into low fat or non-fat plain yogurt mixed with peanut butter.
• Carrot, celery and sweet pepper strips to dip into hummus, fresh salsa or homemade bean dip.
• Whole grain crackers (choose crackers low in sodium, saturated and trans fats) or slices of grilled low sodium tofu (a soybean product) to dunk into low sodium vegetable or tomato soup.
• Unsalted sunflower seeds, crushed whole wheat cereal and sliced banana to mix into low
fat vanilla yogurt (no added sugars) to eat with a spoon like a sundae.
Get Them Involved
While letting kids in the kitchen might mean a bigger mess, if they help pack their lunch, they’re more likely to eat that lunch! On nights you have a bit more time, like a Sunday night, have them choose which piece of fruit or what type of bread they want and let them assemble their lunch. Make this a weekly routine – it’s another great way to spend family time together.
Content provided by the American Heart Association.