Sugar gives energy. However, in its pure form, it has no other nutritional value apart from calories. Our bodies store extra calories as fat. When children eat too much sugar, it can lead to overweight and obesity, tooth decay, heart problems, hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes mellitus, among other health problems. Some parents state they observe that their children become hyperactive when they eat too much sugar.

The sugar in your child’s diet

The sugar in your child’s diet may be plain sugar that you add to his foods, or hidden sugar. Sugar-sweetened beverages, fizzy drinks, sweetened fruit juices, 100% fruit juices as well as sports drinks contain loads of sugar. Sugar is also added to processed packaged foods. Biscuits, cakes, chocolates and sweets are culprits as well. Fruits contain naturally occurring sugar. What makes them healthy is that they are also loaded with healthful fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which plain sugar does not have.

How much sugar is good for your child?

The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends no added sugars for children under 2 years of age. Children more than 2 years old should have no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day. To put this into perspective, one can of soft drink contains about 9 teaspoons of sugar. That is already more than the daily recommended amount of sugar in your child’s diet. Add to it all the hidden sugars in processed foods, and added sugar in porridges and other beverages, and your child’s sugar intake is over the roof.

To identify sugars in your child’s diet, you need to read the labels of all packaged foods. Foods that contain more than 22.5g sugar per 100g, or 11.25g sugar per 100ml are considered high sugar foods, and are bad for your child’s health. However, even excessive amounts of low sugar foods will add up to too much sugar. Moderation is key.

Limiting sugar in your child’s diet

To limit sugar in your child’s diet, choose home-cooked meals over packaged, processed foods. Indulge your child’s sweet tooth with fruits rather than juices and sweets. 100% fruit juices have more sugar than the fruits themselves, and so are not necessarily healthy. Train your child to go for water rather than juice. Cakes, chocolates and sweets should be only occasional treats. To make this practicable, the whole family should be involved rather than just the child’s sugar intake being restricted. Parents should be role models.

What about sweeteners?

Non-nutritive sweeteners are sugar replacements added to food and drinks to make them sweet without adding on extra calories. Though often touted as a healthier option, they are in fact not. Apart from the fact that there is no nutrition in them, and may increase appetite, they make children develop a craving for sugar that is detrimental in the long run.

Eating too much sugar is bad for your child. Families should help children eat healthy by limiting sugar intake, not only for the child, but for the whole family.

Leave a Reply