How much sugar is too much?

Q: How many grams of sugar a day is OK for a kindergartener?

A: Appropriate sugar intake is an important topic for kids, teens and grown-ups.

Americans are, by far, some of the most obese and unhealthiest people in the world, despite our amazing health-care systems.

Excessive sugar intake puts kids on a path to struggle with high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Being savvy with what you’re serving kids and what they have access to eating is a proactive way to maintain their good health.

The American Heart Association has set strong guidelines that say children should be limited to 3 to 4 teaspoons of added sugar per day. (Added sugar doesn’t occur naturally in foods, but rather, is added during the making of processed foods.)

Since each teaspoon is about 4 grams, this means limiting kids to 12 to 16 grams of added sugar daily. Added sugar doesn’t include the sugar content of milk, whole fruits or even 100 percent fruit-juice beverages.

However, fruit juice is a large source of sugar that kids simply don’t need. Therefore, I recommend limiting juice to 4 to 6 ounces daily.

It’s challenging to understand what added sugar is in our foods because labels can be deceiving. But looking for words like glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltodextrin, hydrolyzed starch and corn syrup — and recognizing how much is in each serving offered to kids — is a good place to start.

Beverages such as soda — and even some seemingly healthy veggie smoothies — can have 10 or 11 teaspoons of added sugar per 12-ounce serving or, sometimes more than 40 grams.

That can be as much as three times the daily added-sugar limit recommended for kids!

Recognizing the added sugar intake in the foods you’re offering can help you make choices about lower-sugar options and can help you keep your kids on track for staying healthy into adulthood.

Dr. Gigi Chawla is a board-certified pediatrician and the senior medical director of primary care at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota