Trick or Treat: U.S. Kids’ Sugar Intake Will Surely Scare You!

October 30, 2015
Lindsey Haynes-Maslow
Former contributor

Think ghosts and goblins are scary? How about the fact that U.S. children consume five times the amount of sugar recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, but only about one-third the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables?

A UCS infographic shows that U.S. boys ages 12-19 are eating extraordinarily high amounts of sugar on a daily basis. Those 18 “fun size” Halloween candies depicted in the infographic contain nearly three-quarters of a cup of sugar. This is approximately the amount of sugar teenage boys consumed per day in 2009-2010, according to the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The CDC’s nutrition survey shows that on average, US children consume 124 grams of sugar per day (that equates to about 14 Halloween size candies). The bad news: children consume more sugar as they grow older. Children as young as 5 eat approximately 12 Halloween size candies a day—and by the time they reach age 12, this jumps to 15 candies a day! Sugar consumption also varies by gender and income. Boys consume more sugar than girls (at all age groups): 133 grams compared to 115 grams. And higher-income kids eat the least amount of sugar.

Unhealthy diets have contributed to nearly 30 percent of our nation’s children being overweight or obese, with lower-income and racial or ethnic minority children at the greatest risk. Fortunately, we can do something about it. We can start by supporting healthy eating habits in school. Most U.S. children spend the majority of their days in school, eating lunch there and sometimes breakfast and snacks. Promoting healthier eating habits in childhood on can influence taste preferences later on in life – and the benefits of these healthy habits can last a lifetime.

Congress was expected to reauthorize the taxpayer-subsidized school lunch program in 2015. But the House of Representatives has threatened to roll back the 2010 standards, and the bill is currently stalled. To join UCS in working for a stronger school lunch program and other policies that can help American kids eat healthier food, go to ucsusa.org/halloweeneveryday.