Study Finds Parents Underestimate Sugar Content in Foods

pediatric dentist in Hazel Dell

Parents have a tendency to underestimate the amount of sugar the foods their kids eat actually contains, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the Institute of Human Development in Berlin. Considering the danger excessive sugar consumption can have on a child’s oral health, the results of this study is something your pediatric dentist in Hazel Dell thinks parents need to more aware.

The study found that roughly 75 percent of parents underestimated the total amount of sugar found in such commonly eaten foods as pizza, yogurt, ketchup, granola bars, and orange juice. The biggest discrepancies occurred when parents estimated the sugar content of healthy foods. For example, over 90 percent of the parents surveyed underestimated the amount of sugar found in yogurt by an average of 60 percent.

Researchers were also alarmed to find that parents’ misjudgments tended to relate more to the weight of their child. Kids with the highest body mass index were more likely to have parents who made the most significant misjudgments about sugar content.

“Parents simply don’t know how much sugar is in the food they feed to their children,” wrote researchers. “They believe they are feeding healthy meals and can’t understand why their child is overweight.”

Current FDA guidelines recommend that parents limit the sugar consumption of younger children to between 3 to 4 teaspoons a day, while preteens and teens should have the amount of sugar they consume limited to no more than 8 teaspoons a day.

Sugar and Your Child’s Oral Health

While this current study only examined parents’ likelihood of underestimating sugar content and the children’s health, researchers believe this misjudgment also contributes to an increased risk of poor oral health in kids.

As a pediatric dentist in Hazel Dell, our team always reminds parents about the risks associated with excessive sugar consumption for kids. While not directly responsible, sugar consumption does contribute to tooth decay. When left untreated, tooth decay can cause enough discomfort to seriously impact a child’s performance in school.

Keeping a child’s smile healthy requires preventing the tooth decay that causes cavities to develop. That’s why it’s so important for parents to regularly schedule exams and cleanings with our pediatric dentist in Hazel Dell. These types of preventative procedure can significantly reduce a child’s risk for decay.

One of the reasons researchers believe parents have such a hard time determining the true sugar content of certain foods is due to misleading and hard to understand labels. Accurately reading a food label often feels like it requires the use of a decoder ring, as they list ingredients in terms of percentage of daily recommended values. Parents may see that a container of yogurt contains 25 grams of sugar, but they don’t understand what that means in context of their child’s diet.

Busy schedules often make it difficult for parents to have the time to fully research and understand what their kids eat. Items perceived to have a healthy reputation – such as yogurt – often get a pass without a thorough inspection of what ingredients they actually contain.

One of the biggest examples of underestimating the sugar content of an item frequently given to kids is fruit juice. Parents often view juice as a far healthier alternative than sodas and even sport drinks, both of which contain high levels of sugar. Unfortunately, most brands of fruit juice contain added sugar that makes the drink far less healthy for kids.

Just last year, the American Academy of Pediatric released new guidelines that dramatically reduce the recommended amount of juice kids should consume each today. The new guidelines recommend that kids of different age groups limit their juice consumption to:

  • 12 months and younger: no juice
  • 1 to 3 years: no more than 4 ounces (1/2 cup) a day
  • 4 to 6: 4 to 6 ounces (1/2 to 3/5 cup) per day
  • 7 to 18: 8 ounces per day (1 cup)

By limiting a child’s juice consumption to the amounts listed above, the AAP says will lead to healthier bodies and smiles.

Protecting Your Child’s Oral Health

A balanced diet plays a vital role in helping to protect a child’s long-term oral and overall health. By limiting the amount of added or artificial sugars a child consumes, parents can significantly reduce the risk for tooth decay and cavities that can permanently damage a child’s smile. By replacing these sugar filled items with fresh fruits and veggies, parents can help their kids lose weight and stay healthier overall.

If you’re concerned about the state of your kids’ oral health, it’s important they receive regular dental care from our pediatric dentist in Hazel Dell. Regular exams provide our staff with the opportunity to spot the early signs of tooth decay before permanent damage can be done. If you’re child hasn’t received a back to school dental exam, contact our office today so your child can start the new year off right.

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