There is a lot of fear-mongering about sugar for children in the media and many parents have taught their children to fear sugar by calling it ‘toxic’ or ‘poisonous’. This sort of binary language around any food is really unhelpful and can be very confusing and scary for children when other adults whom they trust offer them food containing sugar or they see other children eating sugary foods.
Sugar that is naturally occurring in fruit, vegetables and milk does not need to cause concern. This sugar requires significant processing from the body for it to be released and it also comes with many other nutritional benefits such as vitamins and minerals.
‘Free sugar’ or added sugar is not helpful for children for many reasons. This is the sort of sugar that is added to food either at home or more commonly in convenience foods and drinks.
A diet high in sugar can lead to excessive weight gain and tooth decay as well as challenging behaviour and poor intake of more nourishing food.
Foods high in sugar generally don’t satisfy appetite as they are broken down quickly leading to a rapid increase in blood sugars followed by a drop. These dramatic changes in blood sugars can lead to tiredness and can result in further snacking and challenging behaviour.
Although sugar occurs naturally in foods like honey, maple and golden syrup, fruit juices and smoothies, these are still classed as free sugars as they have been processed. They should still not form a regular part of a child’s diet unless directed otherwise by a healthcare professional.
Most children in the UK are getting more than twice the amount of free sugar than is recommended each day.
It is recommended that children under 4 don’t have any free sugars in their diet. Children between the ages of 4-6 should have less than 19g per day.
It is very difficult to judge how much that is. Mini Mealtimes makes this easy for you and also encourages you to think holistically about sugar intake over a week to prevent anxiety over sugar that might be consumed at special occasions or for a treat.