Everyday tips for reducing children’s sugar intake
Children in the UK are consuming far too much sugar - especially in the form of soft drinks. Change4Life share advice and tips on how to cut down your family's intake.
Posted on: Fri 15-Jun-18 15:43:56
(10 comments )
Children in England have already consumed a year’s worth of sugar and we’re only just approaching the halfway point. By the time the year ends, they will have had a whopping 4,800 cubes of sugar – more than double the maximum recommendation.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a huge surprise – children aged four to 10 years should have no more than five to six cubes of sugar per day, but are consuming 13 on average.
Too much sugar can lead to the build-up of harmful fat on the inside that we can't see. This fat around vital organs can cause weight gain and serious diseases in the future like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Having too much sugar can also cause painful tooth decay.
While children have already had too much sugar, it’s not too late to help them cut back. With help from Change4Life, this doesn’t have to be as challenging as it may seem as there are many easy ways to be food smart.
Apart from fruit juice, which counts as one of our 5 A Day, sugary soft drinks remain one of the main sources of sugar in our children’s diets – more than ice cream and puddings combined. Some drinks contain far more sugar than you may expect:
- A can of energy drink contains on average 13 cubes of sugar (based on a 500ml can)
- A can of cola contains on average nine cubes of sugar (based on a 330ml can)
- A juice drink with added sugar contains on average five cubes of sugar (based on 200ml juice drink pouch)
Don't forget snacks – half the sugar children consume comes from snacks and sugary drinks. Fruit and vegetables are always the best choice, but if you're shopping for packaged snacks, are facing lots of choices and need to make a quick decision, use this helpful tip: look for 100 calorie snacks, two a day maximum.
Try swapping sugary drinks for plain water, lower fat plain milks, sugar-free or no added sugar drinks.
There are plenty of other easy swaps you can try:
- Swap sugary cereal for plain cereal such as plain porridge, plain wholewheat biscuit cereals, or plain shredded wholewheat
- Swap full fat milk for semi-skimmed, 1% or fully skimmed milk – but remember, fully skimmed milks are not suitable for children under the age of 5
- Swap a muffin for fruity teacakes, toast or a bagel
- Swap chilled desserts, sugary yoghurts, ice cream, sugary jelly and puddings for low fat, lower-sugar yoghurts, fruit, tinned fruit (in juice, not syrup) or sugar-free jelly
You can also try some of these simple tips:
- Go bananas – Try adding a sliced banana to plain porridge or plain wholewheat biscuit cereals. This also counts as one of your five-a-day.
- Fruit and yoghurt – When serving up plain cereal, try adding different fruit, like raspberries or blueberries, and low fat, lower-sugar yoghurt
- Bigger isn’t better – When shopping, it’s easy to think you’re getting a better deal with the big bottles of fizzy sugary drinks, but it just means you’re drinking more sugar
- Sparkling surprise – Instead of a fizzy drink, try sparkling water poured over ice, served with a wedge of lime or lemon
- Treat less – Some families find it helpful to only have sweet snacks once a week
- Get them involved – If your kids help prepare healthier snacks, they are more likely to eat them, so get them involved.
- Halve ice cream – If you’re having ice cream at home, try serving up half of what you would normally give your family and add more fruit instead
Don’t forget snacks – half the sugar children consume comes from snacks and sugary drinks. Fruit and vegetables are always the best choice, but if you’re shopping for packaged snacks, are facing lots of choices and need to make a quick decision, use this helpful tip: look for 100 calorie snacks, two a day maximum.
Here are some ideas of 100 calorie packaged snacks to get you started:
- Malt loaf slice
- Low-fat, lower-sugar yoghurts or fromage frais (flavours such as strawberry, raspberry, banana, apricot)
- Fresh or tinned fruit salad
- Chopped vegetables and lower-fat hummus
- Plain rice cakes or crackers with lower-fat cheese
- Sugar-free jelly
- One crumpet
- One scotch pancake
For more healthy snack ideas and information on how to check for 100 calories, visit here.
By Orla Hugueniot
As a pediatrician, I am equally concerned about sugar intake of children, and there is a lot of good information here. However, I must disagree with the recommendations to use low fat dairy products, as well as sugar free replacements. Mounting evidence shows that fat is essential in our diets and healthy fats should not be restricted. (Children need fat for brain and neuron development.) Moreover, sugar substitutes/artificial sweeteners are likely just as harmful (if not more) than regular sugar; I do not recommend that any of my patients use them.
I agree with George
Low fat and sugar free are not good options
I'm not a medical type. I agree with George re low fat and sugar subs.
Other advice is sound and sensible.
I agree with George, too. I'm astonished by advice to give children artificial sweeteners.
Another not impressed with advising low fat and sweetners
These campaigns often end up preaching to the converted, as the parents who allow a lot of sugary drinks or snacks don't engage with the campaign message. Can I tell you what has worked in public health promotion in New Zealand? They identified that parents in lower socio-economic communities were feeding their children junk as a cheap way of telling their kids that they were loved. Every lollipop or sweet drink or trip to McDonalds was an "I love you". These parents were not making the connection that their expressions of love for their kids was in fact, causing their kids lasting harm.
So the campaigns were based on "We are loving our kids too much".
Basically the messaging came from a position of respect for the parents. Not telling them what to do, or what they are doing is bad, but acknowledging that you can love your kids in different and more positive ways. Thought I'd share that here.
Also not impressed with the low fat and sweeteners advice. Not backed up by the evidence.
@Kiwiinkits That's really interesting. As a working mother who has a lot of guilt about being away from her children too much, I know that I sometimes treat with sugary foods when I shouldn't or I don't have the argument over food because I don't want to ruin the time we do have together.
Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.
Portion size and is key as is teaching children what healthy food is. No food is banned in this house, lots of chocolate is, more than 2 biscuits in one sitting is for a 3 year old. Having ice cream for breakfast is not good. However I told my 10 year old that is your breakfast, nothing else till lunch and the next day they asked for ice cream I told them the same but she ate weetabix instead. We need to educate our children.
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