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Children Are Eating Too Much Sugar, but Halloween Is Not to Blame

10/30/2013 03:01 pm ET | Updated Dec 30, 2013

Without fail, Halloween brings up concerns over children's chocolate and candy intake. It's largely understandable. It is not unusual for children to finish a night of trick-or-treating with several pounds of candy in tow.

As a nutrition professional, though, Halloween is the least of my concerns. It only comes once every 365 days. All the handwringing that surrounds sugar and candy intake come Halloween seems odd in light of how much sugar the average American child eats the other 364 days of the year (according to the American Heart Association, the average 1- to 3-year-old consumes roughly 12 teaspoons of sugar a day, and the average 4- to 8-year-old consumes 21 teaspoons on a daily basis).

Sugar is ubiquitous in most American children's diets. Consider these eight commonly-consumed foods and beverages, and the sugar punch they pull. As you browse these figures, keep in mind that the American Heart Association recommends 8-year-olds cap their sugar intake at 12 grams a day.

1) Froot Loops Marshmallow cereal:
Grams of sugar per serving: 14
Candy equivalent: 5 Hershey's kisses

2) Pop-Tarts Frosted Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough toaster pastries:
Grams of sugar per serving: 17
Candy equivalent: 6 Original Starburst Fruit Chews

3) Nature Valley Crunchy Maple Brown Sugar granola bar:
Grams of sugar per serving: 12
Candy equivalent: 1.5 Snickers fun-size bars

4) Dunkin' Donuts Small Strawberry Coolatta:
Grams of sugar per serving: 57
Candy equivalent: ½ cup Skittles

5) Quaker Dinosaur Eggs Oatmeal:
Grams of sugar per serving: 14
Candy equivalent: 1 Tablespoon Nerds candy

6) Kellogg's Disney Fairies fruit-flavored snacks:
Grams of sugar per serving: 11
Candy equivalent: 1 Pez candy dispenser

7) Wheaties Fuel cereal:
Grams of sugar per serving: 14
Candy equivalent: 4 Werther's original hard caramel candies

8) Capri-Sun Fruit Punch juice beverage:
Grams of sugar per serving: 16
Candy equivalent: Two "fun size" Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

While there is certainly reason to be concerned with American children's sugar consumption, our focus should be on the staple foods and beverages that are relentlessly marketed to them (oftentimes as "wholesome" or "healthful"), not an annual holiday. Considering that recent reports estimate that the U.S. healthcare system spends approximately $1 trillion every year battling the effects of high sugar consumption, it would certainly be wise to find ways to minimize sugar intake year round.

Candy equivalent information was obtained from nutrition data listed on CalorieKing.com

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