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Children's Sugar Intake Not Sweet

October 31, 2012, 6:08 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Children's Sugar Intake Not Sweet
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

Halloween brings buckets full of candy into homes.  But it's not the only night parents should be concerned about how much sugar their child eats.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that kids are eating way too much added sugar every day of the year, possibly raising the risk for obesity and chronic diseases.

Two-year-old Ophelia enjoys her "cookies", even when she's a little sleepy. Only her "cookies" are made of oatmeal, bananas, raisins and walnuts.

"It's the things that have a lot of added sugar or it's just pure sugar, like candy, we try to avoid," Ophelia's father Aaron Norris said.

Norris says he's aware of the childhood obesity rate, which is triple what it was a generation ago. But too much fat isn't the only concern.

According to the American Heart Association, the average four to eight-year-old eats 21 teaspoons of sugar a day, but they should only eat three to four teaspoons.

"There's added sugars in a lot of foods," Sanford Registered Dietitian Teresa Beach said.

The problem only gets worse as children get older.

For example, 14 to 18-year-olds are only supposed to eat five to eight teaspoons of sugar a day. The American Heart Association says the average teenager eats 34 teaspoons.

"We can be a little deceived by packaging. Sometimes it will seem like it's something with fruit in it or something that sounds like it has added Vitamin C on the label. We might think that might be a healthier choice.  But really, when you flip over the label, the first ingredient is a type of sugar," Beach said.

Along with label reading, Beach recommends having a conversation with your children about eating sugar in moderation. Also, it might help to let your children make some of their food choices.

"When you make it about their choice, then it also helps them to learn about it instead of, 'my mom won't let me ever eat whatever,'" Beach said.

Cooking is also a way the Norrises watch their sugar intake.

"If she'll make muffins, she'll look at the sugar content, and cut it way down," Norris said.

And that's a move that will be sweet for Ophelia's health long after Halloween.

New data out this week from the South Dakota Department of Health shows the child obesity rate in the state rose slightly again last school year. Nearly 16 percent of kids 19 and younger are now considered obese.  That's up more than 15 percent the previous school year.

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