Adding it all up: How much SUGAR is enough?

Today we decided to check the sugar content on some of the typical sweets kids are consuming. After a trip to the supermarket this is what the kids discovered. Energy Drinks and Coke contained the most amount of sugar with 13.5 table spoons (4grams) per 500ml bottle. Chocolate bars have around 6 to 7 spoons per bar and skittles have a whopping 12.5 spoons per pack.

According to the Journal of the American Heart Association, youth are consuming a whopping 28 teaspoons of added sugar daily. This is close to 500 calories, just from added sugar, or the equivalent of three, 350ml cans of soda.

2015-04-02 12.25.18 copyWhat is added sugar and what are the consequences of large amounts?

Added sugars to consider are high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, corn syrup, corn sugar, dextrose and crystalline fructose. Additionally, one way to tell if your food contains these sugars is to look at the ingredients listed on the food label ‘ of which sugars’ it will say. It is important to note that sugar occurs naturally in some healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and grains.

Furthermore, the researchers noted that teens who consumed high amounts of added sugar had less HDL “good” cholesterol, high levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides. Possible long term consequences for these teens are at increased risk of heart attack and stroke earlier in life.

“Current advice says no more than 11% of a person’s daily food calories should come from added sugars, or 10% once alcohol is taken into account”.

So, what can be done?

Health organisations have put into place guidelines for the limits of added sugar. The amount of added sugar that a child should consume on a daily basis depends on the child’s age and caloric intake:

  1. Preschoolers averaging 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day should limit added sugar to about 4 teaspoons (16 grams) per day.
  2. Children ages 4 to 8 who average 1,600 calories per day should limit added sugar to about 3 teaspoons (12 grams) a day. To fit in all the nutritional requirements for this age group, there are fewer calories available for added sugar.
  3. Pre-teen and teens averaging 1,800 to 2,000 calories per day should not have more than 5 to 8 teaspoons (20 to 32 grams) of added sugar per day.
  4. 6 teaspoons, or 24 g, of added sugar daily for women and 9 teaspoons, or 38 g, daily for men.


2015-04-02 13.18.08 copyOne step to reduce added sugar is to take a look at what kids are drinking. Beverages such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, and sport drinks are jam-packed with added sugar (as shown in the pictures). 

What parents and teachers should know:

  1. It is important to know the recommended limit of added sugar intake and know common sources of these sugars when providing foods to children.
  2. Encouraging a child to choose a variety of healthy foods with little added sugar is a great way to promote a healthy lifestyle.
  3. Encourage children to drink water instead of soft drinks.
  4. Soft drinks are the biggest single source of added sugar for young people, with boys aged 11-18 getting 42% of their intake this way.


This experiment may have cost us €40 in junk food but it was priceless in terms of educating the kids on the sugar content in sweets and drinks etc.


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