Consumer Reports: What to know about artificial sweeteners

We all know eating too much sugar isn't good for you, but many alternative sweeteners, have their own downsides.

If you're trying to limit how much sugar your kids eat -- you may be unknowingly feeding them sweeteners that might not be any healthier.

Consumer Reports reveals how the label game is changing and has some advice on how to navigate the supermarket aisles.

When Sue Malat bakes, she counts on ingredients like mashed bananas and dark chocolate, to sweeten muffins without adding extra sugar.

Keeping an eye on sugar in packaged foods, is another story.

"I look at every label -- 'cause I don't want to have, like, sugar could be sneaky -- and sometimes, you know, it might say on the front like, 'low sugar' but there really is some extra, unnatural stuff in there, that I don't really want my kids to have," she said.

Nutrition labels are now required to list not only how much sugar is in something, but also how much added sugar is in there too. Which, Consumer Reports says, could potentially create a new complication for parents.

"The concern is, to make that 'added sugars number' look more appealing to consumers, manufacturers might take out some of the regular sugar and add in non-nutritive sweeteners, like sucralose or aspartame," said Consumer Reports Nutritionist Amy Keating.

It's sort of a good news-bad news situation. Less sugar is better, especially for kids, who should have less than 25 grams a day.

Eating too much added sugar early in life puts children at risk for things like obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

But it's not so clear that simply consuming non-nutritive sweeteners instead is any healthier for kids.

"There's a lot of research in terms of non-nutritive sweeteners and how they affect the body - from appetite to blood glucose control to weight loss," Keating said. "But we just don't know how these sweeteners will affect kids in the long term."

The best advice is to follow Consumer Reports and Sue Malat's lead and read labels, looking for both added sugars and non-nutritive sweeteners.

Better yet, choose whole, unprocessed foods like fruits and vegetables. And skip sugary drinks, opting for water as much as possible.

One reason it has been so difficult to study the long term effects of non-nutritive sweeteners is because manufacturers are not required to include the amount of non-nutritive sweeteners on nutrition labels.

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