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Moms want to know: Are aspartame products safe for my child?

The same yummy taste with fewer calories? That’s the promise of goodies containing artificial sweeteners like aspartame. When grocery shopping for their family, more parents today may choose artificially sweetened beverages, desserts and tabletop sweeteners like Nutrasweet and Equal to curb health problems like obesity. And many wonder, “Is aspartame a safe alternative to sugar?” Yes, studies say.

One of the most popular chemical sweeteners, aspartame hasn’t been found to cause health problems like cancer. It is, however, dangerous for people with a rare hereditary disease known as phenylketonuria (PKU). (Doctors typically discover PKU during routine infant screening.) If your child has PKU, check labels to see whether aspartame is an ingredient.

Don’t fret if your child consumes products with aspartame—he or she just shouldn’t overdo it. For kids to reach the daily aspartame limit, the average 70-pound child would need to consume seven cans of diet soft drinks a day, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Making smart dietary replacements is a good idea, but don’t substitute any type of sugar for a balanced diet containing fruits, vegetables and whole grains. To keep your child’s sugar consumption in check:

  • Limit sugary snacks. Better yet, cut up strawberries to satisfy sugar cravings.
  • Cut down on soda. Or switch to diet soft drinks and encourage eight cups of water a day.
  • Substitute healthy whole grains for sweetened cereals.
  • Encourage your child to eat fresh fruit, such as an orange or an apple, instead of drinking sweetened fruit juice. Fruits offer nutritional bonuses like fiber.