“11% of Londoners who undertake the school run regularly stop on the way home so that their children can have some dinner, nearly three times as outside London.” – see reference.
Eating out as a family can spark joy when it’s a special occasion. Do it regularly and it’s a habit with the potential for salt and the daily recommended sugar intake for kids to blown by undesirably high levels.
UK has a cosmopolitan palate but if families stop at bakeries and coffee shops daily to pick up breakfast, food choices will be high in sugar.
This routine practice may be convenient and something to look forward to as a Friday morning treat, but as a daily habit, thats worrying.
Are we really starting to move away from traditional eating habits such as eating breakfast at the table?
Why do kids exceed the recommended daily sugar intake?
- Label reading can be confusing
- Hidden sugars in foods
- Perception that natural sugars are healthy choices
- Increased frequency of eating out
- Unlimited access to high sugar foods
What is hidden sugar?
Hidden sugars can certainly be a problem which is why label reading is crucial in helping children stick to their recommended daily sugar intake.
See How To Screen Breakfast Cereals for detailed information on how to identify hidden sources of sugar.
There’s a worrying trend promoting natural sugars as “healthy” when in fact it’s still a free sugar.
Hidden sugars in foods
The goal isn’t to eliminate sugar from your child’s diet but beware of recipes or brands promoting ingredients such as maple syrup, date syrup or coconut sugar as a healthy addition. Often misinterpreted as healthy sugar alternatives, they are in fact not.
There’s a promise of antioxidants, minerals and fibre but the truth is, children would need to eat kilos (yes really) to reap any of the proposed benefits.
If you use breakfast cereals as an example, by choosing a cereal based on wholegrains with either fresh or dried fruit, children can reap the benefits of fibre, vitamins and minerals without the extra free sugars from the fancy coconut sugar.
Unless you are making pancakes for weekend breakfast, then obviously yes of course maple syrup is a delicious must as a planned meal with added sugar.
My ultimate guide on sugar
Beat the confusion and grab your guide on sugar.
Simply click on the image to download your free pdf with simple alternatives for high sugar foods.
You will also receive an email a day for five days with activities to help you identify hidden sugars in everyday foods.
Don’t forget to listen to this podcast episode with Louise from Dietitian’s Life who is also a registered dietitian. We chat a little about the UK’s sugar tax and her recent media appearance on BBC midlands TV where she chats to Nick about sugar.
Snacks – sugar free or not?
Many of you have shared with me that you worry that your children get bored easily with simple snacks such as fruit.
The truth is fruit is perfectly fine as a snack alongside items like popcorn, mini sandwiches, crackers, milk or yoghurt.
Most snacks that are packaged are either high in salt or sugar. You don’t need to go sugar free, but do screen labels of everyday foods.
Yoghurt for example is a useful option as it provides calcium and protein, but unless its natural, plain or plain Greek style, it will have added sugar.
You don’t need to avoid yoghurt with added sugar but do select a brand providing natural sugar from pieces of fruit or with sugar at levels less than 10g per 100g.
Read ‘How To Choose The Best Children’s Yoghurt’ for additional tips.
Other great snacks for kids following a plant-based diet without added sugar include:
- fresh or tinned (drained) fruit
- rice cakes or corn thins with nut butter
- slice of wholegrain toast with hummus or vegetable spread prepared using tahini paste
- wholemeal fruit bread or easter bun
- vegetables with a nut or hummus based dip
- calcium fortified dairy free plant pudding (check the levels of added sugar)|
If your child eats animal foods then the following can be useful snacks:
- mini egg sandwich or stuffed in pita pockets
- cheese with crackers or oat cakes
Remember, if the first three ingredients listed contain any of the words that mean sugar, the food item is likely above 10-15g of sugar per 100g.
Should I sugar count?
Absolutely not! But do screen labels and choose brands for snacks containing less than 10 – 15g of sugar per 100g.
If children are eating around 11g of sugar at breakfast before school, that’s their entire sugar allowance for a 2-3 year old in just one meal!
Why not listen to the podcast if you’d like to hear me practice screening two real examples of food labels? You can scroll down to the player to listen.
One example I used was a food label of Waitrose’s wholemeal easter buns. The second food label belonged to a fruity date bar.
As I’ve said before for a valuable way of balancing sugar: remind kids that all foods are delicious.
Vegetables are delicious and so are high sugar foods.
My philosophy with food is that my children should be able to enjoy all foods including any with added sugar. Children can safely enjoy small amounts of high sugar food or drink as part of balanced eating.
Let me help
Would you like to meet a children’s dietitian who has successfully helped families solve their nutrition problems from around the world?
Whether you are worried about picky eating, food allergy or need to help your child build a healthy relationship with food, I’ll help you manage these with confidence.
For bookings and enquiries email me on email@example.com or book a free initial consultation here to talk about how I can help you.