Study Says Parents Struggle Estimating The Amount Of Sugar In Kids' Food

child eating sugary breakfast cereal

If you've talked to other parents (and we mean any other parents), you know it's a common struggle trying to keep a kid's nutrition in check. Picky eaters abound and sometimes it can be difficult just to decipher the nutritional box on food packaging. We see the words organic or natural and take those as good signs that what's in our grocery cart is at least quasi good for you. But a new study published in the International Journal of Obesity reveals that parents have a really hard time distinguishing what's loaded with sugars and what isn't.

In the study conducted at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, a whopping 75 percent of the parents interviewed underestimated how much sugar exists in kid foods like yogurt, ketchup, pizza, granola bars, and orange juice. The biggest culprit appeared to be yogurt, with over 90 percent of the parents thinking that refrigerator staple had approximately 60 percent less sugar than it actually does. Yikes!

The research team chatted with 305 participants. Out of those they concluded that the parents of the kids with the highest BMI (body mass index) typically struggled the most with identifying sugar content.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), children should consume less than six teaspoons of sugar daily. And those sweet beverages they love so much? The AHA says both kids and teens should be limited to just eight ounces of sugar-sweetened drinks per week. Children and teens should limit their intake of sugar-sweetened drinks to no more than eight ounces weekly. That's not a lot of sugar at all. When you factor in how hard it appears for parents to really assess the amount of sugar in their family's food, those teaspoons and ounces can add up quickly.

child eating all the sugar
Credit: iStock / ChesiireCat

In an article published on the University of Louisville Physicians website, some of their own experts said that they aren't at all surprised by these findings, noting that the problem goes further than child obesity. Sugar is also detrimental to a kid's smile and tooth decay can lead to missed school days for extra dental visits.

So what's a caregiver to do? The folks at UofL would like to see those often confusing food labels get a major upgrade.

“Food labels can be confusing because they list ingredients in terms of percentages of daily recommended values,” said Heather M. Felton, M.D., medical director of the UofL Pediatrics-Sam Swope Kosair Charities Centre in the eye-opening piece. “Parents may read that a container of yogurt has 25 grams of sugar, but they often do not know how that should fit into their child’s diet. Plus, parents are busy and don’t have time to thoroughly read labels, let alone keep track of how many grams of sugar their children consume in a given day. A simpler labeling system would help enormously.”

RELATED: Toddlers Eat More Sugar Than Is Safe For Adults, Study Says

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