Health Notes

Avoid the Chocolate Fever

by Dr. Elizabeth Walenz on September 13, 2016

Just in time for Halloween in October, the American Heart Association (AHA) has made recommendations for how much sugar children between the ages of 2-18 should consume each day.

I remember a conversation about 10 years ago with another group of parents. We were out to dinner downtown with our toddlers, which is an adventure within itself. We were ordering off of the children’s menu for our kids: grilled cheese, chicken fingers, etc.

The waitress asked, “And what would they like to drink? Chocolate milk?”

The other couple, said, “No, no. We don’t want her to get the chocolate fever.”

“Chocolate fever?” my husband and I asked.

“Our daughter has never tasted chocolate milk,” they said. “We fear if she tries it she’ll never go back.”

These parents were onto something.

It turns out taste preferences begin early in life. Studies show limiting added sugars early on can help kids to develop a life-long preference for healthier foods.

This is right in line with the new AHA guidelines on sugar for kids.

The new recommendations include that:

  • Children ages 2-18 should consume less than six teaspoons of added sugar per day.
  • Children and teens should limit their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages to no more than eight ounces a week.
  • Children under the age of two should not consume foods or beverages with added sugars, including sugar-sweetened drinks.
Dr. Elizabeth Walenz
Elizabeth Walenz, MD

Eating foods with added sugars, whether it’s high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose or honey, can be associated with heart disease, increased risk of obesity, and increased risk of high blood pressure in children and young adults. Children who are overweight and take in an increased amount of sugar are more likely to be insulin resistant, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.

Currently, the typical American child consumes 19 teaspoons of added sugar daily. The sources: soda, fruit flavored drinks, sports drinks, cakes and cookies.

Toddlers between ages one and three currently needs just 1,000 calories per day. For an active 14-year-old, it’s 2,400 calories per day, and for an active 16-year-old, it’s 3,200 calories per day.

The recommended six teaspoons of sugar includes 100 calories.

So what is a savvy parent to do?

Read labels. In 2018, the FDA will require manufacturers to show not just all sugars on food labels but also those that were added.

Encourage healthy foods. Make your child’s diet heavy in fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, whole grains and lean protein

Start early. Kids do gain a taste for the sweet early on, expose your child to a broad palate, with many different flavors and foods, which will help to develop their taste buds

Avoid foods with added sugars. That includes sweetened processed foods, such as cereal bars, cookies, cakes and may foods marketed specifically to children, such as sugar sweetened cereals.

Shop smart. When grocery shopping, spend your time on the periphery of the store, avoiding the heavily processed snack and cookie aisles

Try not to spread the chocolate fever. That means parents; YOU need to set a healthy example.

As always, look to your child’s Methodist Physicians Clinic pediatrician for further guidance on feeding your growing toddler, child or teen.

Dr. Elizabeth Walenz is a pediatrician now seeing patients at
Methodist Physicians Clinic Regency.
Contact Dr. Walenz at
Dr. Elizabeth Walenz


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