Sugar Detox: How to Curb Kids' Sugar Habits

How much sugar is too much sugar for kids ... and you?


Published:

Growing up, our family had dessert every night. It was usually ice cream. Without fail, my lunch always included a Twinkie, Devil Dog or Suzie-Q. When I became a parent, it was hard for me to let go of those same sweet treat traditions with my own family. I felt guilty that my children were not getting the same things I got as a kid. It took me a few years to realize that my childhood tradition had become a sugar habit for me as an adult. I knew that I didn’t want to pass that onto my children.

Most families, like my own, try their best to live healthfully, with sports and exercise, eating in, and making good food choices. Without realizing it, sometimes we may be feeding our families more added sugar than we intend. In recent years, sugar detoxification, or “sugar detox,” has become a way to learn about the added sugar in foods, make different choices and lifestyle changes.


What is a Sugar Detox?

A sugar detox is when you choose to reduce sugar from your diet by making a concerted effort to remove as much as you can for a certain length of time, says Merritt Tracy, an integrative nutrition health coach with Namasté Green. Tracy teaches an online class called Free Me From Sugar 6-Week Detox to help people break the habit and create a new mindset.

“People are realizing just how much sugar is in our diets or recognizing that they have a problem with sugar,” Tracy says. The goal of a sugar detox program can be to make a complete lifestyle change or to create awareness about the amount of sugar in the foods eaten daily.

Jen Fowler, 41, and her husband, Doug Fowler, 40, signed up for Tracy’s sugar detox program because they noticed their sons Will Fowler, 9, and Owen Fowler, 7, seemed to crave sugar, and were always asking for dessert.

Jen is a teacher and staff manager with YogaOne. For the most part, their family eats healthy and exercises. When they joined the program, Jen and Doug introduced the idea of reducing sugar by being role models. They discussed the good sugars in fruit and the bad sugar in cookies and candy with their sons, and taught them how to read labels.

“I want my kids to make healthy choices. We invited them into the conversation instead of them being told they were going to do this,” Jen says.


How Much is too Much Sugar?

The numbers may surprise you. According to Charlotte-based integrative pediatrician, Dr. Sheila Kilbane, the American Heart Association recommendations for sugar-intake are three teaspoons of sugar for children ages 4-8. The amount increases to five to eight teaspoons at age 9 and throughout adulthood. These numbers translate to most everyone taking in too much sugar. For instance, 12 ounces of soda has just under eight teaspoons of sugar and 12 ounces of orange juice has seven teaspoons of sugar. 

Labels can be deceiving. Words like juice concentrate, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate or cane sugar disguise what is really just sugar. Foods, such as fruit snacks and fruit drinks, that we think are healthy are sometimes the worst culprits. Fruit grain bars have 12 grams of sugar, which is the equivalent to three teaspoons of sugar. A 20-ounce sports drink has 34 grams of sugar, which is more than eight teaspoons. And sugar shows up in the most unexpected places.

“You’ll find it in anything from condiments, soups, veggie patties, snack foods, toaster pastries and frozen foods,” Kilbane says.


Making Lifestyle Changes

Start by taking a three-day inventory of the foods your family eats, Kilbane says, to assess the sources of your family’s sugar intake. She recommends taking out big-ticket items like juice, soda and sports drinks first.

“I tell people to take it out of what they are drinking,” Kilbane says. Look at cow’s milk and sweetened almond or soymilk. Then, tackle the candies and desserts.

Jen admits that she had created a story that Will and Owen were not vegetable eaters. Once she stopped telling herself that and started feeding them veggies, they ate them. Jen also got the kids involved by having them hunt for cereals, tomato sauce and other foods with low to no added sugar. Her shopping methods have changed.

“I am more deliberate with what I buy. I read labels when I shop, and I choose the things that have less sugar. I buy more vegetables, and don’t go in the center aisles of the grocery store,” Jen says.

Instead of a fruit smoothie with orange juice in the morning, Jen uses no-sugar almond milk. One son loves chocolate and peanut butter smoothies. She was able to make a few adjustments by adding protein powder, banana, avocado, vanilla extract and cacao powder.

Although the Fowlers plan to continue eating less sugar after the class with Tracy ends, they know it is a balancing act. Jen makes it clear that their kids are not completely off sugar, but their desserts have changed to sliced banana with natural peanut butter with cinnamon or apples dipped in peanut butter.

“We still have treats for special occasions. When Doug turned 40, we did have cake. We are just a lot more mindful about what we put in our bodies,” Jen says.

 

Vanessa Infanzon is a freelance writer in Charlotte. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @morethanVMI.


Try these simple ideas to decrease sugar in your family’s diet.

1. Pack real fruit, not fruit-like items.

2. Bring healthy snacks to your kid's soccer game.

3. Celebrate special occasions with an activity rather than with dessert.

4. Reward good behavior with quality time.

5. Substitute sports drinks with lemon water or herbal teas. ​

6. Make sweet treats a family outing once a week.

7. Replace one packaged snack with a whole food like carrots or strawberries.

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Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

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, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
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View map »


Website »

More information

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Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
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View map »


Website »

More information

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, NC
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Various living history displays and reenactors will be present to interact with the museum guests telling of the US military involvement in the European Theater of Operations.

Cost: Free

Where:
Kings Mountain Historical Museum
100 East Mountain St.
Kings Mountain, NC
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Car owners and enthusiasts gather to celebrate their passion for cars and showcase their prized classics, customs and hot rods. Occurs the third Saturday of the month, excluding May and October.

Cost: Free

Where:
Charlotte Motor Speedway
5555 Concord Pkwy. S.
Concord, NC
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George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows presented faith of Jesus Christ in song. Come discover the ways the Lord used their efforts and their music to open hearts around the world. Read inspiring...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Billy Graham Library
4330 Westmont Drive
, NC
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Sponsor: The Billy Graham Library
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On Saturdays and Sundays from noon-5pm, the arcade bar opens to all ages with a parent or guardian present.

Cost: Cost for games

Where:
Abari Game Bar
1721 N. Davidson St.
, NC
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Telephone: 980-430-4587
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Live the story of Stephen and the Apostles. Experience the rousing power of ANNO DOMINI: the year of our Lord while enjoying a Greek dinner.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theater
3327 Highway 51
Fort Mill, SC  29715
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Bring the family to hear live music in Davidson this summer! Dates: April 18, May 16, June 20, July 18, Aug. 15, Sept. 19 and Oct. 17.

Cost: Free

Where:
Circles at 30
Jetton Street
Davidson, NC
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River Jam brings live music outdoors, right in the middle of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river. Hear music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, as well as during each of...

Cost: $6 for parking

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy.
, NC
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Sponsor: USNWC
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This exhibition is the first to focus exclusively on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other Staffordshire potters in late eighteenth-century England. 

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free

Where:
Mint Museum Randolph
2730 Randolph Road
, NC
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Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art examines the rise of three-dimensional objects issued in editions, which emerged as an international phenomenon in the 1960s and 1970s.

Cost: $5-$9, children younger than 10 free

Where:
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
420 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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The Things Come Apart exhibit reveals the inner workings of common, everyday items. Images explore how things are designed and how technology has evolved over time.

Cost: $6-$7, children 3 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Schiele Museum
1500 E. Garrison Blvd.
Gastonia, NC
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See the original, Broadway-style dinner show, and experience the story of Stephen and the Apostles. See website for showtimes.

Cost: $10-$40

Where:
NarroWay Theatre
3327 Hwy 51
Fort Mill, SC
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Sponsor: NarroWay Productions
Telephone: 803-802-2300
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This exhibit explores the various aspects of walls, which includes the artistic, social, political and historical aspects, as well as the physical barriers like fences or sand berms. The space is...

Cost: $6-$15, children 4 and younger free, included with admission

Where:
Mint Museum Uptown
500 S. Tryon St.
, NC
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Join us for our Pinkyswear Virtual Kids Triathlon event. This virtual event which kicks off formally on June 1st for all ages and abilities, and the triathlon can be completed anywhere! The...

Cost: $15

Where:
, NC


Sponsor: Pinkyswear Foundation
Contact Name: Valorie Liggett
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Annual Guides

G.P.S. [Go.Play.See]

Your guide to raising kids in the Queen City, plus our 2019 Readers' Favorites for places to play, explore and learn with the kids.

Education Guide

A comprehensive guide to independent, private, charter and public schools in Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Union and York counties.
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