Blog Site Discontinued June 23, 2017

Welcome. This blog site, healthy eating and food safety, has been discontinued as of June 23, 2017. I look forward to your comments and feedback regarding use of this tool to disseminate educational information.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Simple Carbohydrates are Part of Complex Problem

Simple Carbohydrates are Part of Complex Problem
Why has our population especially that of our youth, become so overweight? That is a loaded question, one that likely has many contributing factors. Parents may find it easier to provide sweet foods and beverages that children want than it is to only allow children to enjoy these options as special treats.

Sugar is also referred to as a simple carbohydrate and is used plentifully in candy, soft drinks, cookies, muffins, cake and more. Sugar is readily absorbed into our bloodstream and can cause a quick rise in blood glucose which provides energy for short term durations but does not provide long-term fuel. Sugar is also referred to as “empty calories” because there are no beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, in sugar.

The advantage that complex carbohydrates have over simple sugars is that they provide many more nutrients such as fiber, vitamins and minerals. This makes choosing complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain cereal, quinoa, fruits, vegetables and nuts a healthier choice. In comparison, simple carbohydrates do not have much nutritional value. Eating too many simple carbohydrates like sweetened bread and sports drinks can lead to an excessive intake of calories. Overeating can contribute to weight gain which increases the risk of joint disorders like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and strokes. In essence, moderation is ideal; excess is harmful.

Recommendations for sugar intake is described in the chart below, with an explanation of how much added sugar is in various types of food and beverages. Keep this in mind when deciding what choices you want to provide your child with. Their choices depend on what you as the parent or caregiver provide. Are you willing to say “no”, to frequent requests for sweets and offer them healthy options instead? By adhering to healthy choices and providing this discipline when a child is young, you’re paving the way for a foundation of healthy eating when your children are older and helping to prevent the overconsumption of calories that can lead to weight gain.
Age group
Daily recommended limit of Added Sugar
Newborns and Infants
0 tsp (0 gm)
Toddlers and Preschoolers
4 tsp (16 gm)
Children ages 4-8
3 tsp (12 gm)
Pre-teens and Teenagers
5-8 tsp (20-32 gm)
Adult Women
6 tsp (24 gm)
Adult Men
9 tsp (36 gm)
In an attempt to look at what a “typical” amount of added sugar a child might consume the following foods are listed. The table is an example of what a 5 year old could consume during a day-long sporting event. Note, the chart only lists added sugar, not the total sugar content of each food.
Food item
Amount of added sugar
Capri Sun, reduced sugar
4 tsp (16.5 gm)
7 Donut holes (glazed)
19 tsp (74 gm)
12 oz Cherry slushy
10 tsp (41 gm)
Hot dog/bun
1 oz bag of potato chips
4 pieces of licorice
5 tsp (19 gm)
Ice Cream (1/2 cup)
4 tsp (15 gm)
42 tsp
Does this look familiar to you? If you see your child’s diet in the above table, maybe it’s time to re-think your choices, and how you plan to swap out some of the items for healthier choices.

Source: This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit

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