SNEAKING INTO SAUCES OR HIDING IN VITAMINS, ADDED SUGAR COULD BE SECRETLY SABOTAGING YOUR CHILD’S HEALTH
It can be confronting to realise how easy it is to serve our children meals and snacks we perceive as healthy, but are secretly laden with sugar. My passion for health and nutrition extends to delivering workshops at schools and I love the reactions I see when I run through sugar content of particular foods. There seems to be not just a lack of education around the subject, but a disassociation of responsibility between sugary foods and how they set up a lifetime of health consequences. A strong immune system is the holy grail of health, so it’s interesting to note there’s evidence shown that sugar has an immunesuppressing effect. Other issues that relate to teens such as anxiety, depression, learning difficulties and sleep issues are also thought to be a consequence of too much sugar in the diet.
Unfortunately, there is no governing body to regulate what’s sold at supermarkets in regards to sugar content in foods, so it’s wise to begin taking responsibility for what’s loaded into your trolley.
Apart from the fact that sweetness makes a product more addictive, there really is no productive reason to add refined sugar to foods whether you’re an adult or child.
The World Health Organisation suggests we maintain a daily intake of fewer than 25g of added sugars (or six to eight teaspoons), which isn’t a lot if you consider a can of soft drink may have eight teaspoons alone. In my eyes, a small amount of honey to sweeten oatmeal or to add to a smoothie is fine (or try fructose-free rice malt syrup) — as long as it’s taken into consideration for the day’s intake. To make things easier, here are six ways to help curb your kids’ sugar demons:
1. Differentiate between sweet and sugar
If your child is on the hunt for something sweet, offer fruit instead. Get creative and make ice blocks or fruit kebabs. A word of caution though: try to remain aware of the difference between your child being truly hungry or wanting something to eat due to boredom or emotional issues. Offering meals that include protein and healthy fats will be beneficial in maintaining energy levels and hinder snacking between meals.
2. Learn to read food labels
The supermarket is where it all begins. If you don’t know how to read food labels then you are relying on marketing experts who will lead us to believe anything is healthy.
3. Make your own
If you make your own snacks and bakes then you can control the amount of sugar.
4. Skip dessert
There is no reason dessert should be offered every night. Ultimately the habit enforces that your kids should leave room for “something better”. If your child is genuinely still hungry after a big day, then offer oatmeal, fruit or natural yoghurt for dessert. If they turn their noses up at this then it’s usually a good indication of their true hunger level. Bookending meals with something sweet can develop a habit that is difficult to break later in life.
5. Sip smarter
Sure, keep a few poppers in the cupboard as a treat when the kids have been busy, but they shouldn’t be part of your child’s everyday diet. Without the fibre content that comes with whole fruit, these drinks enter the bloodstream quickly, which in excess leads to insulin resistance.
6. Identify hidden sugar sources
Sugar can be lurking in sauces, bread, jams, peanut butter, kids’ chewy vitamins, biscuits, muesli bars, cereals and the list goes on. Most foods these days have added sugar in some form so this is another reason it’s important to read food labels. Educate your child with gentle guidance to understand what they are eating and they will begin to develop responsibility for nutrition in later life.
KARLA GILBERT Champion ironwoman and ocean athlete Karla Gilbert is an accredited nutrition and health coach and certified Level III and IV Fitness Trainer, with certificates in Child Nutrition and Nutrition. She has just released her first ebook, Naked Habits.