According to Public Health England children aged 4 to 10 years should have no more than the equivalent of 5 to 6 cubes of sugar each day, but are consuming on average 13 cubes. They go on to say that "Too much sugar can lead to weight gain, obesity and tooth decay, a third of children leave primary school overweight or obese, while around a quarter of 5 year olds suffer from painful tooth decay. Children above a healthy weight are more likely to remain so as adults, increasing their risk of preventable health conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers".
The biggest contributors of free sugars in a child's diet come from breakfast cereals, fruit juices/soft drinks, biscuits, cakes and pastries, flavoured yoghurts, puddings, chocolate and sweets.
There is so much we can do to help reduce these in our children's diet. I am not saying we should never allow them to have sugar but reducing it to within the recommended guidelines is achievable by following the tips below.
1. Reduce their sugar intake at breakfast time
It is scary to think that a bowl of some of the best known children's breakfast cereals contain more than half your child's daily intake of sugar! Even some that claim to be healthy! Try swapping breakfast cereals for:
- Natural yoghurt (no added sugar) with chopped fruit and some home made low sugar granola or muesli (I will post a recipe soon). There are some low sugar store bought granola and mueslis that are ok but please check the label for sugar content.
- Multi-seeded toast with almond butter or natural no added sugar peanut butter topped with 1/2 a chopped banana
- Homemade buckwheat pancakes with berries and yoghurt (will post a recipe)
- Oat cakes with hummus or avocado
- Porridge with berries and seeds
- Stewed apples with cinnamon and raisins. Add a dollop of natural yoghurt.
- Eggs any style
2. Lead by example
Children are very aware of parents eating habits so if you eat well and limit sugar in your diet the chances are they will too. A good place to start is breakfast.
3. Get them cooking
There are so many delicious and simple recipes out there for children's snacks, lunches and dinners. Get cooking together as studies show that children who help prepare food are far more likely to want to eat it. Preparing food from scratch allows you to control the sugar.
4. Replace their snacks, having healthy options always available.
Stock up on healthy snacks in the house. Good options are:
- Hummus and chopped vegetables (pre cut them and put them in the fridge so they are ready to go)
- Oat cakes and nut butter or hummus
- Fresh fruit with some seeds or nuts
- Homemade low sugar muffins - sweeten with pureed apple or carrots instead of sugar
- Homemade low sugar flapjacks (see previous post)
5. Don't forbid foods but control them when you can.
Don't fall into the temptation of buying biscuits, sugary cereals, sweets and desserts to have in the house. Keep the cupboards as healthy as you can and keep the sweet stuff for when the children go to birthday parties etc.