You can't sugarcoat this: The latest research on high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) affirms that consuming fructose can affect an area of the brain that controls appetite, causing you to not feel full and potentially eat too much. But the bad rap isn't just due to its chemical makeup. “The worst part about this substance is its ubiquity. It's cheap to make and ends up in nearly all processed foods, so kids' sugar consumption is off the charts,” explains Robert Lustig, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco. That fact is no doubt contributing to an alarming rise in Type 2 diabetes cases, prompting the American Academy of Pediatrics to recently issue new treatment guidelines, the first for kids.
Eliminating HFCS from your family's diet is tricky because it's the sweetener of choice for most processed foods, but you can start by reading labels with a laser focus. HFCS may also be listed as glucose-fructose syrup, isoglucose, or fruit fructose. Whenever possible, feed your family fresh, unprocessed foods or those with only a few ingredients on the label.
SNEAKY SOURCES OF HFCS
GRAIN OF TRUTH Even the low-sugar cereals can contain HFCS. Mix a sweet favorite in with a healthier variety to tone it down a bit.
ON TOP OF SPAGHETTI Red sauce on pasta is another perennial kid fave, so serve one that lists “tomatoes” as the first ingredient—and little else.
OUT TO LUNCH Yup—some bread contains this sweetener (even the healthier wheat varieties), so check labels carefully.
GOT JUICE? Pouches, boxes, bottles, and cans—sweet sips are easy to pack, but unless they're 100 percent juice, don't tote them along.
THE BIG APPLE Tots think applesauce is the boss, but it's not always made with just fruit and H20. Check labels carefully before you buy.
RED ALERT Ketchup is a kiddie staple alongside hot dogs, fries, and chicken nuggets—and a prime source of HFCS. Go organic if you can swing it.