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Sugar coated truth

Updated: Jan 5, 2019

The low down on sugar for your kids

We all know that large amounts of added/refined sugar in our children’s diet is not ideal particularly those from sugar rich drinks. Excess intake of refined sugar has been shown to increase the risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes and dental caries later in life. The latest studies show that South African children are consuming close on ten tsps of sugar a day, which is way above the recommended amounts. Added Sugars offer no nutritional benefit except for contributing to our energy intake.

The problem lies is that added sugar is commonly associated with certain foods such as sweets, chocolate, cakes, biscuits, fizzy drinks and so we feel if we avoid giving these foods to our children then their diets should be low in sugar. You will be just surprised as often am to find sugar lurking in all corner of the fridge contents and grocery cupboard in foods we would never suspect.

How much sugar should we be having?

The WHO (World health organisation) are currently redrafting their guidelines on sugar however it is currently suggested that sugar should not make up more than 10% of our diet and WHO are even going as long as 5%.For a preschooler that equates to about 4 teaspoons of sugar a day which is the amount of found in 1 cup of cordial or squash or commercially produced ice teas This is not allot if you consider that most children in South Africa are consuming 40-60g a day and even up to 100g in some adolescents.

So how do you as families and parents cut down your child’s sugar intake?

It is obviously easy to monitor how much sugar we add to our children’s diet when you add tsps pof sugar to porridge but we often forget the hidden sugar already found in the food we eat. The best way to find the sugar is by checking the food label.

 The quickest way is to check the ingredient list as products are listed in descending order of mass. For example there is a yoghurt you give to your child that says it is made with real fruit but when you check the ingredients label sugar is listed second and fruit third meaning there is more sugar in there than fruit. I generally advise patients to at least avoid products where sugar is listed is the first three ingredients. Examples of these include crunchies, cereal bars, sweetened yoghurts, biscuits, some canned goods and sauces.

If you want more information from the label then you can look at the nutrient table.  A high sugar product contains more than 15 of sugar per 100g. When checking the food label always look at the amount of sugar per 100g. Sugar is listed under glycaemic carbohydrate and termed of” which total sugar" Reading food labels is a great way to slowly start reducing the amount of sugar in your child’s and families diet.

Let’s take an example of cereal, you have two cereal types;  Product A contains 12g of sugar per 100g and Product B 25g of sugar per 100g. If you were to swop product B for Product A for each 25g portion of cereal per day you would be cutting 3.25g of sugar which is just over half a teaspoon of sugar per day. Over a week this would add up to nearly 44g of sugar (9 tsps) and over a year nearly 437 tsps of extra sugar which your child doesn't need.

Just by making small changes you can cut your child’s sugar intake each day. My tip to you is to choose a food that you buy each week and read the label; try to switch to different brand or type that has less sugar .Remember by buying food that is as natural and fresh as possible that has undergone the least amount of processing you can reduce your sugar intake considerably.

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