Researchers at University of Toronto warn that sugar also permeates other, less obvious foods including saucy barbecue ribs, salads, and sweet and sour dipping sauce.
The agency published the final guidelines on added sugars, and urged people to limit their sugar intake to less than 10 percent of the total daily calories. For additional health benefits, the value should drop below 5 percent.
To meet such guidelines, adults and children should have fewer than six teaspoons of added sugars.
Mary Scourboutakos, the study’s lead author and a doctoral student in the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto’s department, says she was surprised by the amount of added sugars in some kids’ meals — and the wide variation between meals.
“For many meals, there were no added sugars whatsoever,” she says, noting that restaurants have made strides in offering healthier options on kids’ menus, such as milk instead of soda pop and fresh fruit instead of ice cream.
“On the other hand, we saw some meals with more than 100 grams of added sugars,” she said – that is more than 25 teaspoons of added sugar and more than four times the WHO recommended value.
More than 3,100 kids’ meal combinations from 17 Canadian chain restaurants were included in the analysis.
Scourboutakos found that one of every five meals exceeded the WHO’s recommendation to limit added sugars to 10 per cent of daily calories — the equivalent of about 13 teaspoons of sugar.
Even though sugary drinks were the main culprit, some containing up to 17 teaspoons of sugar, Scourboutakos says condiments, including dipping sauces, sandwich spreads and salad dressings, also contained high amounts of added sugars.
“The important message for parents here is that when you are eating out, and it’s not necessarily a treat meal, if you’re not choosing what is the most obvious healthy choice, your child may be getting a days’ worth of added sugars.”
Nutrition experts say they welcome research conducted on Canadian restaurants, which can then be used to inform public health policy.
The findings were published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports