Let’s Talk Sugar

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines doesn’t lower the limit on added sugar intake, but we still have our work cut out for us. Just getting Americans to cut their added sugar intake to less than 10% of daily calories is a challenge.

Here are some ways you can incorporate the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans into your nutrition education efforts around added sugar:

  1. Under age two, no added sugar for you! The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines recommends zero added sugar intake for children under the age of two. The average toddler (age 12-23 months) consumes 104 calories per day from added sugars. That’s more than six teaspoons of added sugar, when that number should be zero!
    • Teach parents, grandparents, and all care-givers how to choose nutrient-dense, age-appropriate foods without added sugar. Use our Food Label Education materials to show them where to find added sugars on the food label. If a food or beverage has added sugar, it doesn’t fit into a healthy diet for children under age two.
  2. Teens are too sweet. Added sugar intake goes from 11% of calories/day in childhood to 15% of calories/day in adolescence. And guess what’s also on the rise as kids turn into teens? Sugar-sweetened beverage intake. Sugary beverages make up about 15-25% of total added sugar intake in childhood. By adolescence, this jumps to 32%.
    • Educate children and teens about sugar in beverages with our Are You Drinking Candy materials. Parents and caregivers have more control over what younger kids drink, so they should start early to help foster good habits like drinking water instead of soda, fruit drinks, and sports drinks.
  3. Be the example. Come on, adults! How can we expect our little ones to skip the sugar if we don’t? More than 60% of adults under age 60 exceed the recommended daily limit on added sugars. Again, it’s the sugar-sweetened beverages — they make up more than 40% of daily added sugar intake.
    • Our Sugar Math PowerPoint show covers everything adults (and kids and teens) need to know to get their own added sugar intake in line with recommendations.

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

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updated on 10-18-2021