Kids love sugar. Sugar can create blood sugar, mood and energy imbalances. It is also addictive and can lead to obesity, diabetes and dental caries.

Sugar is everywhere and is hidden in foods such as tomato sauce, salad dressing, fruit bars and cereals. Kids should be limited to 12 grams of added sugar daily, or about the amount of two small cookies. The American Heart Association reports that we consume about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, as opposed to the six-teaspoon limit suggested.

Prevent damaging tooth decay

To help your child curb her cravings it is recommended to:

  • Shop and cook smarter: Home-made food has less sugar than processed food. Choose products without added sugar, such as plain yogurt instead of flavored. You can add fruits and nuts to enhance flavors.
  • Serve crave-curbing foods: Fiber-rich foods (whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits) help absorb excess blood sugar and prevent sugar cravings. Whole fruit satisfies your desire for something sweet and slow the body’s absorption of sugar. Fruit juice, drinks and lollipops (even those claiming to be 100% fruit juice) are no better than white sugar because of the missing fibers. Milk has fats that slow down your child’s absorption of lactose. In addition, milk has calcium and vitamin D.
  • Serve breakfast, not dessert: Many varieties of cereals have more sugar in a bowl than two Oreo cookies (about two to three teaspoons). Look for cereals with fewer than 10 grams of sugar and more than two grams of fiber per serving.
  • Do not completely forbid treats: Being too strict can make your child want sweets even more. Create a sugar-moderate environment by only keeping a few treats at home. Tell your kids they can have a treat after eating a nutritious meal first. The good news is that you should maintain a balanced diet, eat sugar in moderation and keep your family’s intake to natural sugar (no artificial sweeteners) as much as possible.

Get the facts about sugary drinks

Below are listed some common beverages, along with their pH values and amounts of added sugar. 7.0 is neutral acidity, with higher values indicating basic qualities and lower values showing higher acid levels. All measures are for 12-ounce servings. 1 teaspoon of sugar equates to 4 grams.

  • Pure water = 7.0 pH (neutral), 0 tsp. added sugar
  • Barq’s Root Beer = 4.0 pH, 11 tsp.
  • Minute Maid Orange Juice = 3.8 pH, 9 tsp.
  • Propel Fitness Water = 3.4 pH, 1 tsp.
  • Red Bull = 3.3 pH, 10 tsp.
  • Sprite = 3.3 pH, 10 tsp.
  • Mountain Dew = 3.3 pH, 12 tsp.
  • Diet Coke = 3.1 pH, 0 tsp.
  • Sierra Mist = 3.1 pH, 10 tsp.
  • Full Throttle Energy Drink = 3.0 pH, 11 tsp.
  • Diet Pepsi = 3.0 pH, 0 tsp.
  • Gatorade = 2.9 pH, 5 tsp.
  • Sunkist Orange Soda = 2.9 pH, 13 tsp.
  • Pepper = 2.9 pH, 10 tsp.
  • Vault Energy Soda = 2.9 pH, 12 tsp.
  • Amp Mountain Dew = 2.8 pH, 11 tsp.
  • SoBe Energy Citrus = 2.6 pH, 12 tsp.
  • Minute Maid Lemonade = 2.6 pH, 10 tsp.
  • Pepsi = 2.5 pH, 11 tsp.
  • Diet Schweppes Tonic Water = 2.5 pH, 0 tsp.
  • Coca-Cola Classic = 2.4 pH, 10 tsp.
  • Battery Acid = 1.0 0 tsp.

*Acidity tests: Dr. John Ruby, University of Alabama, Birmingham School of Dentistry, 2007. Other results from Minnesota Dental Association, “Sip All Day, Get Decay,” 2002.