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U.S. kids are gobbling far more added sugars than they should, and processed and packaged foods, not beverages, are the leading source, new government data show.
They are downing an average of 322 calories a day from added sugars, or about 16 per cent of their daily calories. Boys consume 362 calories a day from them; girls, 282 calories.
The data from the National Center for Health Statistics show 59 per cent of added-sugar calories come from foods and 41 per cent from beverages. But high-calorie soft drinks are still the biggest single source of added sugars in children's diets.
Added sugars include table sugar, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, molasses and other caloric sweeteners in prepared and processed foods and beverages, such as cakes, candy, cookies, muffins, soft drinks, jams, chocolates and ice cream.
Sixty-three per cent of calories from added sugars are consumed at home.
There was no difference in percentage of calories from added sugars based on income level.
Soft drink consumption "is high, but we shouldn't lose sight of the added sugars in foods such as muffins, cookies, sugar-sweetened cereals and pasta sauces," says Cynthia Ogden, senior author on the report and an epidemiologist with the National Center for Health Statistics.
"Many processed foods have added sugars. Those foods contribute more than the beverages."
An earlier government analysis by Ogden showed that teens who drink soft drinks, energy drinks and other sugary beverages are guzzling about 327 calories a day from them, which is equal to about 2½ cans of cola.
A diet high in added sugars is linked to many poor health conditions, including obesity, high-blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke. The findings come at a time when one-third of children in the U.S. are overweight or obese.
Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, says: "A major problem is that sugar contains nothing nutritional, and it is edging out the food kids should be eating, especially real fruits and vegetables."
The new findings are from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is considered the gold standard for evaluating food and beverage habits because the data come from in-person interviews. The results are from more than 7,100 interviews conducted from 2005 to 2008.
Parents answered questions for children under age 9; those 9 and older participated in the survey