It’s common knowledge that too much sugar is not good for any of us, let alone our children.
However we all know what happens when we completely cut something out – as soon as we’re not allowed it, we crave it even more. So what is the best balance and how do we find it?
How often should you let your kids have sweets? Here is a little advice on reaching a happy medium with sugar.
Why Is Too Much Sugar Bad?
We’re all told we shouldn’t hang out at the confectionary aisle too often, but why? It’s important to understand the effects of consuming excess sugar so we can make better choices.
First up, eating a lot of sugar-laden foods often means we’re eating too many calories, increasing our chance of obesity.
Kids who develop a sweet tooth early on may find healthier foods bland in comparison. They may fill themselves up on sugary treats, leading them to eat less of the nutrient dense foods they really need, like fruit, vegetables and grains. Grains are not only a great source of fibre, they help to lower cholesterol, decrease the risk of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The NHS daily recommendation is that children aged 4-6 should eat no more than 19g of sugar – that’s about five sugar cubes. Then it’s no more than 24g (roughly six sugar cubes) for children aged 7-10.
So how do we find the balance between a nutritious diet and occasional treats? A poll on Babycentre showed that 31% of parents surveyed would give their children sweets a couple of times a week, and 25% would only offer them once a week. It seems that most of us are already trying our best to limit the intake of sugar.
If we ban sweets completely it could easily have the opposite effect. Kids may want sugary treats even more, and go overboard when they get the chance. I’m sure we’ve all been there! They say that children learn by what they see, so leading by example is a surefire way to set healthy habits and show that all things are OK in moderation.
Habits can be hard to break so help your child to develop healthy habits early on. We should think twice before giving sweets or sugar-rich snacks as a reward. Offering pudding as a prize for eating their dinner can quickly lead to it becoming expectation. This could not only impact kids’ physical health, but also encourage unhealthy emotional associations with food.
Children crave our time and attention more than anything, so try and involve them in food preparation. Teach them about what they’re eating. Eating as a family can also have a positive effect, as they will see us eating a wide variety of foods, textures and flavours, and want to follow suit.
Alternatives to Sugary Treats
Gummy bears and lollipops are not the only culprits. High levels of sugar are also found in chocolate, biscuits, drinks, cereals, cereal bars and even pasta sauces. If you’re not sure if an item contains sugar, check the label – you might be surprised.
Luckily, there are some great sugar-free alternatives available. I’ve found that knowing my children’s favourite healthy snacks is invaluable to keeping a balance. I keep favourites such as grapes and peanut butter as one-off ‘cheat treats’ throughout the week so the children think they are allowed something special and I don’t get the guilt!
There are lots of other ways we can try and get fruit and vegetables into their diet. For example, if your kids love fruity sugary drinks, try giving them fruit-infused water as an alternative. Sometimes it’s just a case of thinking outside the box.
We’ve all given into a bribe here and there – it’s only natural on days where we’re pulling our hair out. Importantly, we shouldn’t demonise sugar and you shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying it every now and then. After all, the world would surely be a worse place without the odd slice of cake, or an ice cream on a hot day!