With concerning new research emerging by the day, many of us are starting to re-evaluate the role sugar plays in our lives. And with good reason; as studies have now proven sugar to be one of the biggest contributors to some of the most serious health issues facing our kids and our families today.
While most of us would admit to having a sweet tooth, most wouldn’t consider ourselves particularly at risk or by any means an addict. However, as we are hearing more and more, the tasty sweet stuff is hidden in a shocking amount of our daily food, even ones we have previously assumed were ‘healthy.’
We've had a number of queries about what the role sugar should be in your kid's diet, so without launching into too much doom and gloom, we've rounded up the most essential facts and what you should be aware of so you can make the best decisions for your toddler or preschooler.
Be warned- it might make you rethink your trip to the ice cream aisle!
Sugar is a carbohydrate, and a source of energy for the body. Great if you are an athlete in need of a quick boost and burning it off!
But too much sugar, from any source, is impossible for the body to break down, and is stored as fat. Children are even more susceptible to the peaks and troughs eating sugar can bring. Giving in to satisfy their initial craving can hit you right back when their mood changes for the worst 30 minutes later.
As you can see above, sugar is naturally occuring in fruit, veg, honey, and milk amongst other things. Whilst the body still recognises this as sugar and deals with it in the same way, the fact that it comes along with fiber from the food means that we will eat less of it, and we are also getting many other vital nutrients from the fruit or veg.
Refined sugar on the other hand is stripped of nutrients...and is a direct hit to your organs, waistline and teeth!
Concerning both adults and children, we have been advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO ) to only eat 6 teaspoons of sugar per day.
When you think that one low fat yoghurt contains over 3 teaspoons of sugar, there's not much room left!
This could seem harsh, and a bit of a shock for candy and ice cream lovers, but it could also be a crucial wake up call to all of of who are eating just a bit too much:
“We have solid evidence that keeping intake of free (refined) sugars to less than 10% of total energy intake reduces the risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay,”
says Dr Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development.
So what does refined sugar do to the body?
- As mentioned above, refined sugar has now been identified as one of the biggest contributors to obesity. This is difficult to manage for many families as so many of our go- to, pre packaged daily foods are laden with sugar, even ones we were told were 'low fat' and 'low calorie.' A diet high in processed and sugary foods also increases the risk of developing type 2 Diabetes.
- We have also been warned about the adverse effects of sugar on the liver. Our liver stores excess sugar, which is eventually converted into fat. If this is allowed to build up over time, it may lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- It's bad news for the heart too, as there has been some research which has found a link between refined sugar and unhealthy levels of blood fats- this is worrying as it can result in an increased risk of heart disease.
- Sugar is also very bad for the teeth, because it provides easily digestible energy for the bad bacteria in the mouth, and it has also been linked to causing inflammatory issues with the skin.
So now we know the dangers, what can we do about it?
Before you panic and throw out everything in your pantry, take time to evaluate how much you and your family are consuming per day. Make a food diary and check the labels on each item, and see how you fare against the WHO's recommendation. You could be pleasantly surprised!
We're all human, and we have all grown up thinking of sugar as part of our daily lives. We can be thankful that we have more research and education nowadays, and use it to the advantage of ourselves and our children!
The easiest way to reduce yours and your familes sugar intake is to make sure it remains an occasional treat, and cut back on the daily foods you eat with refined sugar hidden inside.
By checking packets of cereal, yoghurts, bread, pasta sauces and snack bars, you will be amazed at how much you can cut down, and then the treats you do have can be enjoyed with less guilt. Baking cookies and eating dessert doesn't have to be axed completely !
At Kid's Konnect we take on board your worries as a parent, and we're aware of how important a good balanced diet is for learning and playing. We've created meal plans that are both healthy and enjoyable for your preschooler to eat- a fine balance as you will know all too well!
If the thought of cutting down on sugar in your household is a daunting prospect, fear not! We'll be keeping you posted on healthy treat ideas, how to sneak in fruit and veg and things to be wary of in the minefield that is the Supermarket. Keep your eyes peeled!
In the meantime, check out our advice for catering for picky eaters.