There are so many great reasons to help your teen eat less sugar, but unless it addresses your teen’s personal stress point, then they are unlikely to be interested in your fabulous idea of eating less sugar. Sugar is ubiquitous, so even if they stop eating dessert, they’re still consuming it by eating crackers, protein bars, cereals, drinks, bread, sauces and salad dressings. This is why educating your teen on how much sugar they are actually consuming while discussing how reducing their consumption will personally benefit them can be very powerful. Let’s dive in.
How Much Sugar Should Teens Eat Daily
The recommended amount of sugar per day is 6 teaspoons (24 grams) for women and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for men. For most teens, this means absolutely nothing.
An eye-opening activity is to measure out how much sugar your teen consumes at one meal. Let’s say a typical breakfast for your teen is two bowls of cereal and a glass of juice.
Measure 2 cups of cereal = 20 grams on average
Measure 1 cup of milk = 13 grams
Measure 1 cup of orange juice = 18 grams
This sample breakfast contains 12.75 teaspoons of sugar. That is well over the recommended daily intake, and it is only one meal.
Measure 12 teaspoons of sugar into a bowl.
While the amount of sugar in a typical breakfast might shock your teen, actually having them spoon out the sugar into a bowl really emphasizes how much sugar they are truly consuming. Once your teen knows for sure they are eating way more sugar than they should be, it is time to educate them on the health risks of eating too much sugar.
Sugar Negatively Impacts Many Teens’ Health?
Over consuming sugar has been linked to many serious health issues like heart disease, some cancers, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, leaky gut, and metabolic diseases. However, for most teens, the threat of disease is so far in the future, it is not a very convincing reason to give up some of their favorite foods.
How do you convince your teen that eating less sugar is worth it? The key is to determine their personal stressor and then share why eating less sugar will help them improve their personal struggles. While there are numerous stressors that come up, the four main ones that negatively impact many teens are acne, weight, focus and behavior.
Eating less sugar could help your teen have fewer breakouts. A study conducted by Smith RN, Mann NJ, Braue A, et al. found that eating a low-glycemic-load diet improved acne. When your teen works on eating less sugar, they will lower their glycemic load. The glycemic load is how quickly a food raises your blood sugar. The more sugar a food contains the higher the glycemic load. Struggling with acne can be very embarrassing and negatively impact a teen’s confidence. If this is true for your teen, then this might be the extra incentive to get them to eat less sugar.
Eating less sugar may help your teen lose weight. First off, high sugar foods are typically low in nutrition, so even though they have eaten something it doesn’t satisfy their hunger for long and they feel the desire to eat again sooner. Therefore, they need more calories to feel full which over time can lead to weight gain.
Secondly, when a teen consumes a meal high in sugar, their blood sugar becomes too high. Their body will produce insulin to carry this sugar out of the blood and store it as fat to use later. By decreasing the sugar in their meals, they will automatically be turning less of their food into fat which will help them lose weight. If your teen would like to lose weight, then eating less sugar is a great practice.
When teens eat a meal high in sugar, the sugar gives them a quick spike in energy. However, this energy burst doesn’t last very long and leaves them feeling more tired than before. When your teen’s energy is low, it makes it more challenging to stay focused and on task. In addition, a study demonstrated that increased sugar consumption negatively impacts children’s ADHD symptoms. If your teen struggles with staying on task and meeting expectations, eating less sugar will likely help.
Behavior and Social Acceptance:
Humans are social beings, and while not all teens desire the same amount of social interaction, all teens want to be accepted and included at some level. However, when teens struggle with behaving properly, they might not receive the positive feedback they desire. There have been several studies on the relationship between diet and behavior. Dr. Stephen Schoenthaler has studied thousands of juvenile delinquents on junk-food-free diets. In each study, when juvenile delinquents were put on a low sugar diet their antisocial behavior decreased on average by 44%. If the behavior of teens who have been incarcerated can improve by reducing sugar, imagine what it could do for your teen if they struggle to regulate their emotions.
By helping your teen truly understand how much sugar they are actually eating each day and connecting the negative impacts of sugar to something that is a current struggle, it makes it more likely that your teen will be willing to cut back their sugar intake. Let me know how these two strategies work for your teen in the comments below. Did they help your teen want to eat less sugar?
If your teen struggles with weight, acne, focus or regulating their behavior, then they are likely stuck in the Chronic Stress Loop. Grab a copy of my Stress Less Guide here and learn my top 5 healthy habits to help teens reduce stress, so they can feel more at ease and be happier and healthier in school and beyond