Do you have a child with a sweet tooth? You may want to think twice before packing cookies in your kid’s lunchbox. The American Heart Association put out new recommendations that kids between ages 2 and 18 should eat less than six teaspoons of added sugars per day for a healthy heart.

Six teaspoons is about 100 calories or 25 grams of sugar. The heart experts also recommend that children and teens should drink no more than eight ounces per week of sugar-sweetened drinks. Kids under the age of 2 should not consume any food or beverages with added sugars.

“Added sugar” means any sugar or syrup that is added to food when it’s being processed at a food manufacturer or prepared in the kitchen.

Why is Sugar the Bad Guy?

Excessive sugar intake can lead to obesity and health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes and other conditions that can eventually cause plaque to build up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart, explained Geetha F. Pinto, MD, a cardiologist and director of the Heart Failure Program at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center.

In fact, studies show that the more sugar children eat, the more likely they are to develop these health problems, according to the American Heart Association.

“Once obesity sets in it can be very difficult to reverse these changes and makes it harder as an adult to lose weight … Though heart disease can manifest itself in adulthood, the foundation of the problem is usually established in the younger years,” said Dr. Pinto.

Just Say “No” to Added Sugar

The easiest way to cut sugar out of your kid’s diet? Always offer them water, says Patricia Guay-Berry, RD, an outpatient dietitian at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center.

Try these tips

  • Avoid soda, fruit juice and sports drinks
  • Try fruit-infused water
  • Top off ¾-cup of seltzer with 100 percent natural fruit juice
  • Always read the Nutrition Facts and look for “sugar” or “syrup” in the ingredients

When in doubt – go for sources of natural sugar like fruit instead of processed baked goods, ice cream or cookies.

Eating healthy is just one great way to keep your heart in good shape. Find out how healthy your heart is with our fast, FREE online heart health quiz.