Children are Eating their Weight in Sugar Each Year

by in Diabetes, Dr. Scott Olson, Kitchen Sink, Pediatrics, Sugar October 29, 2008

By Dr. Scott Olson

Research shows children are eating their weight in sugar each year!

That bag of candy your child lugs home after a long night out trick-or-treating is certainly heavy, but, if your child is typical, that amount of sugar is only a small portion of what they are going to eat throughout the year.

Children, it appears, are eating their body weight in sugar every year.Recent research looking into what children are eating has found that they are eating more sugar than ever before and that the major source of all that sugar is exactly what you might guess: fruit juice and soda.

When all tallied, a typical child in America is eating somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 pound of sugar a day, that means somewhere between 100 to 150 pounds of sugar end up in their little bodies each year.

A study released by the journal, Pediatrics, looked into how much sugar children are getting from their drinks (soda and fruit juice); and here is what they found:

  • Children get 10 to 15 percent of their total calories from these two drinks (soda and fruit juice).
  • Children aged six to nineteen drank an average of 30 oz of soda or fruit juice every day.
  • Two to five-year-olds drank an average of 15.5 oz of juice or soda a day.
  • The size of an average drink a child consumes has climbed 46 percent (almost double) sine 1972.

It is astonishing to think that 10 to 15 percent of the calories these children are getting are coming from just soda and fruit juice, because that 10 to 15 percent doesn’t included added sugars from what they eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or the cookies, candies, ice cream or other sugary snacks they consume. It also doesn’t include the hidden sugars in crackers, chips, peanut butter or fast foods they eat.

Total sugar amounts become even crazier when adding all the additional foods they eat that act like sugar in their bodies such as starchy vegetable (such as potatoes) and many grains.

It is clear that our children are overdosing on sugar.

Really? A Half a Pound of Sugar a day?

Whenever I write that children (and, yes, adults too) eat between 1/4 to 1/2 pound of sugar a day, people always question the amount. Let’s see how easy it is to make eat that much sugar every day.
In order to make this calculation, you have to remember that 30 teaspoons of sugar is equal to 1/4 pound of sugar.

Look at how many teaspoons of sugar are in typical foods:

  • Twelve ounces of soda contains 8 teaspoons of sugar, a 16oz soda contains 10.5 teaspoons.
  • Breakfast cereals contain 4 to 6 teaspoons of sugar (more than that if they sprinkle sugar on top).
  • Donuts contain between 8 to 20 teaspoons of sugar.
  • Cookies have between 2 to 4 teaspoons of sugar (each).
  • For a more complete list, look here: Percentage Of Sugar In Common Foods.

Look how easy it is to get that 30 teaspoons (or 1/4 pound) of sugar:

  • Three sodas almost gets you there.
  • A few donuts would do the same.
  • Breakfast cereal, a soda, peanut butter, a few cookies and desert means you hit your quota for the day.

Who’s Responsible?

The most surprising revelation in the article in journal, Pediatrics, was that fact that children are getting the bulk of this sugar at home. Most (55 to 70 percent) of sugar-sweetened beverages were consumed in the home, while only 7 to 15 percent in schools. Preschools and Daycare tilt the percentage away from parents as they typically hand out more sugary drinks than a regular school.

These results show that parents actually have a lot of influence over what their children are eating and need to consider these facts with every trip to the grocery store.

Is Everyday Halloween?

Yes, parents should be concerned about how much sugar their children are eating on Halloween, but this holiday is far from atypical when we are talking about sugar consumption. Kids are eating a lot of sugar every day.

The long-term affects of sugar-eating are many and children are especially susceptible to sugar as is shown by the incredible rise in childhood obesity and diabetes.

Parents can do a lot to determine the health of their children and help them to make better choices about sugar. Since the majority of the sugar eaten by children happens at home, it should be easy for parents to curtail its use. The first best step is to stop buying soda and fruit juice, which may cause a mini-revolt, but is in the best interest of everyone.

Reference: O’Connor TM, Yang SJ, Nicklas TA. Beverage intake among preschool children and its effect on weight status. Pediatrics. 2006 Oct;118(4):e1010-8. PMID: 17015497

~Dr. Scott Olson
Naturopathic Physician

Dr. Scott Olson is a Naturopathic doctor, expert in alternative medicine, author, and medical researcher. Spurred on by his patients’ struggles with sugar addiction, he was determined to discover how addictive and harmful sugar can be and ways to overcome that addiction.

The result of that study is his book Sugarettes, which details the addictive qualities of sugar and the harm that sugar does to our bodies.

Dr. Scott also maintains a blog which highlights the latest in health and healthy living. Subscribe or stop by to check out his latest research on sugar addiction.

  1. I don’t like sugar at all so I’m bringing down the average! My isn’t that scary…think of all the health freaks on this blog that don’t touch that stuff. There must be people out there that are eating three times their body weigh each day in sugar to make up for them!


    This was a wonderful article and made my day…I’m at least doing something right!

    Miss Matchmaker’s last blog post..Unconscious Communication

  2. That is scary. No wonder the obesity epidemic is what it is here in this country.


    Kelly O

  3. This is incredible! If this stats are true, then there’s a lot of health abuse going on in families and children are being set up for a disease laden future. The picture looks is so gloomy…but at least it’s nice that this has been pointed out. I believe that prevention is better and cheaper than cure and how I wish every parent could read this info.

    WD Favour’s last blog post..The Cure for Poverty

  4. Wow great article. This is the biggest Halloween scare of them all!

  5. Thanks for writing this up! It’s sad that we have become a nation of fat lazy sugar eaters. Our standard of living is so high that no one cares anymore.

    I added a link to this article on VOTEmotion here:

  6. This is a really interesting article that applies to any parent with young kids. My son now is a little over three and as he starts mixing around other kids and learning how to socialize, he is discovering all the different types of sugary drinks, candies and lollies that he sees other kids consume. So, he too wants the same now. I’m trying to control his intake of confectioneries and such but sometimes, it is a losing battle with tantrums and all. Sigh!

  7. […] Children Are Eating Their Weight in Sugar Each Year […]

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