Thursday, April 9, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Sugar - How Much is Too Much?

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is not our darkness but our light that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?"  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a Child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.  We are all meant to shine as children do.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It is not just in some of us; it's in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously allow others to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."                                                                                      -- Marianne Willamson

Oh, the irony!  

At a recent fitness class I occasionally attend, a little girl about 6 or 7 came to the same class with her mother.  Both were obese.  

I was glad the mother came to the class, silently thinking, "Now she can model good behaviors for her daughter."  The girl played on the grass as we did our power hour of crunches, stretches and running.  The next week, the girl came again with her mom.  While her mom brought water for herself, I couldn’t help but notice that the girl’s snacks consisted of a bottle of soda and a bag of Oreos cookies. Really?? 

There is a strong connection between all the added sugars in processed foods and drinks and the unprescedented rise in childhood obesity in the U.S.   Reversing childhood obesity requires conscious work to increase awareness among adults.  So, here are a few questions to consider:

1.      How much sugar is too much for kids? for adults?
2.      How much sugar is in a 12 ounce soda?
3.      Are some sugars worse than others? 
4.      What is the nutritional value of sugar?
5.      What is the relationship between sugar and obesity?

Here are the answers:
1.       For kids in preschool and early elementary, 3-4 teaspoons of sugar (12-16 grams) is the recommended daily limit.  For tweens and teens, 5-8 teaspoons of sugar (21-33 grams) is the recommended daily limit.  For women, it is about 6 teaspoons (25 grams).  For men, it is about 9 teaspoons (37 grams).
2.      There are about 44 grams of sugar in a 12 ounce soda.  That is about 11 teaspoons of sugar.
3.      Yes.  Highly processed sugars like high fructose corn syrup, a key ingredient in sodas and processed foods, are highly addictive and harmful, especially to children.
4.      There is no nutritional value in sugar.  Sugar is a carbohydrate with calories but no vitamins, minerals, or fiber. 
5.      Excess sugar is stored in the body as fat.  Eating more calories than you use will lead to weight gain.

Here are several suggestions for healthy snacks for kids:
  • Water
  • Water flavored with lemons or limes (this is ALWAYS a big hit in our "Growing Healthy Kids in the Kitchen" classes)
  • 10 grapes (try washing and freezing them for a really amazing treat!)
  • A small apple and some whole grain crackers
  • Hummus (so easy to make*) with celery and carrots
  • Whole grain crackers (Triscuits are great) and a couple of slices of cheese
  • Walnuts and craisins
How much added sugar are YOU eating and drinking?  If you are working on getting to a healthier weight, then start reading food labels and looking at the grams of sugar.  GHK TIP: Divide the grams of sugar per serving by 4 and this will give you the teaspoons of sugar per serving.  

Learn how easy it is to prepare healthy foods. ALL kids deserve access to healthy foods, not processed foods filled with added sugars, fats, and salt.  Listen to “Pop Up Health,” my weekly talk with Chef Michael Glatz from La Patissiere in Vero Beach, Florida - go to and search "Chef Michael Glatz".   Click here.

Remember, "your playing small does not serve the world".  Manifest the glory of God.  Be a role model for others, especially your children, if you are a parent.  Make good choices about food. Eat well.  Laugh often.   Health is our greatest wealth.  It really is.  

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich

Founder of the Growing Healthy Kids Project

PS -- Thanks to my friend Beth ( for reading Marianne Williamson's words on her radio show this week.  I have always been inspired by these words, ever since my friend Donna Vernon shared them with me.  When I heard Beth read them, I was driving and thinking of a quote to use in this week's article  and realized that if I shared them with you, you may also be inspired! 

*For more healthy ideas for the kids (and you), get your copy of Nourish and Flourish (go to upper right corner).  It contains the favorite hummus recipe from our Growing Healthy Kids in the Kitchen classes.