Sick­en­ing truth about how much sugar chil­dren are eat­ing

We asked three girls to keep a food diary. The re­sults hor­ri­fied their mums

Daily Mail - - Femail Magazine - by Sadie Ni­cholas

SUG­aRY treats lie at the heart of fam­ily time these days. from af­ter- school snacks to birth­day par­ties with lots of choco­late, bis­cuits and sweets, sugar is loaded with mes­sages of re­ward and en­joy­ment.

add to that the hid­den sug­ars in con­ve­nience foods and the treats chil­dren choose for them­selves at school, and even par­ents with the best of in­ten­tions will find it hard to mon­i­tor just how much of the sweet stuff their chil­dren eat. ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey, chil­dren aged four to ten con­sume twice as much sugar as they should — equiv­a­lent to 20 choco­late chip cook­ies a day. Teenagers, mean­while, eat three times as much as they ought. Chil­dren aged seven to ten years should eat no more than 24g (equiv­a­lent to six sugar cubes) of added sugar a day and over-11s are lim­ited to 30g (seven cubes).

We asked three mums to help their daugh­ters keep an hon­est sugar diary for just a week, and di­eti­tian Tanya Thomas to asses them. The re­sults are star­tling. Is it time you asked your­self just how much sugar YOUR child or grand­child is eat­ing…?


Claire Lil­ley, 43, a pri­mary school head, lives in Som­er­set with her part­ner and daugh­ter Jes­sica, 12, who’s 5ft 2in.


Break­fast: Crois­sant with mar­garine and jam; two slices of toast, mar­garine and Mar­mite; cran­berry juice. Snack: De­caf cap­puc­cino and mini white choco­late and rasp­berry muf­fin from Costa. eclair sweet. Lunch: (at Pizza ex­press) Pizza margherita. ap­ple­tizer. Din­ner: salt and vine­gar crisps, sugar-free jelly. Wa­ter to drink.


Break­fast: Two slices toast, marg and jam; hot choco­late. Lunch: Margherita pizza. Wa­ter. Din­ner: home-made tuna pasta bake. Diet lay­ered yo­gurt. Snacks: Cup­cake, corn thin with mar­garine, ap­ple juice.


Break­fast: Yo­ghurt and two corn thins. Lunch: sausage, mash and green beans. ap­ple and rasp­berry crum­ble. Wa­ter. Din­ner: Cheese and tuna toastie in 50/50 bread. Low-fat yo­ghurt and sugar free jelly. Diet Coke. Snacks: Toast, mar­garine and jam. alpen yo­ghurt ce­real bar.


Break­fast: Two slices of toast with mar­garine and Mar­mite. sugar-free jelly. Lunch: fish­cake, green beans, wa­ter. Gra­nola in Greek yo­ghurt. Din­ner: home­made mini pizza topped with pep­pers, sweet­corn, mush­room, moz­zarella and olives on a muf­fin base. Wa­ter. Muller Light yo­ghurt, rasp­berry donut. Snacks: Mary­land cookie, fraz­zles, Op­tions hot choco­late, corn thins with Philadel­phia, squash.


Break­fast: Jelly. Muller Light yo­ghurt and rasp­ber­ries Lunch: Pasta with grated cheese. Wa­ter. Gra­nola in Greek yo­ghurt. Din­ner: Cot­tage pie. Wa­ter. Snacks: Two cheesy pin­wheels, alpen yo­ghurt ce­real bar, ap­ple.


Break­fast: hot-cross bun with mar­garine, sugar- free jelly, pineap­ple juice. Lunch: Jacket potato, cheese and beans, rice pud­ding, wa­ter. Din­ner: Cheese and tuna toastie. Diet yo­ghurt. Snacks: Pepsi Max, yo­ghurt­coated ce­real bar.


Break­fast: Por­ridge made with wa­ter, cur­rants, cin­na­mon. Lunch: Roast beef, cab­bage, roast pota­toes, York­shire pud­ding and gravy. Ba­nana, wa­ter. Din­ner: Crunchy nut Corn­flakes mixed with vanilla yo­ghurt. Snacks: Chicken slices, Go ahead slice, ap­ple juice. Av­er­age added sugar per day: 70g = 17.5 sugar cubes (Rec­om­mended max: 30g/7 cubes) Weekly to­tal: 490g = 122.5 cubes (Rec. max: 210g/49 cubes)


That is shock­ing! I don’t think of my­self as an ir­re­spon­si­ble par­ent but I feel bad. I don’t want to set Jes­sica up with bad habits for life. What chil­dren eat is a mine­field. I buy fat-free foods, think­ing I’m be­ing healthy, but I haven’t thought about sugar con­tent.

It’s also a fine bal­ance: you don’t want to make your daugh­ter ob­sessed with calo­rie count­ing.

Jes­sica has a vo­ra­cious ap­petite and I can’t con­trol what she eats at school, or lock cup­boards at home. I’m for­ever telling her to eat a piece of fruit if she’s hun­gry.

That said, I only cook from scratch at week­ends as I work full­time, so I buy con­ve­nience foods. from now on I’ll make more ef­fort to avoid pro­cessed foods and keep meals as nat­u­ral as pos­si­ble.


MY Diary has re­ally sur­prised me. It shows I’m quite an un­healthy per­son. at school, some­times I choose cake in­stead of a main meal, but now I think I should have some­thing like a jacket potato in­stead. It would fill me up and be bet­ter for me.

I’ve had a lot of lec­tures from my mum about healthy eat­ing and now I can un­der­stand why.


The fact Jes­sica has break­fast every day is a pos­i­tive start. But por­ridge or whole­grain ce­real with a ba­nana or hand­ful of raisins would help her feel fuller for longer. Lots of peo­ple think honey is a healthy op­tion but it con­tains al­most as much sugar as sugar.

Jes­sica’s diet in­cludes a lot of pro­cessed foods, which of­ten use sugar to im­prove taste and shelf life. and diet yo­ghurts (or other ‘diet’ foods)do the same.

Choose unsweet­ened nat­u­ral or Greek yo­ghurt with fruit in­stead.


Katie Rose, 40, a brand direc­tor, lives in Chig­well with it man­ager hus­band Simon, 44, and daugh­ters Sadie, ten, and Poppy, seven. Sadie is 4ft 5in. their au pair takes care of most week­day meals.


Break­fast: Costa Baby­c­cino and crois­sant af­ter swim­ming. Lunch: Bread roll with a cheese string and hard-boiled egg. Crisps, cookie, cher­ries, ap­ple juice. Din­ner: fusilli pasta, no added sugar Dolmio sauce, pep­per sticks, olives, petit pois. sparkling wa­ter.


Break­fast: Ba­nana, sat­suma, ap­ple and honey. Lunch: Medium baked potato, baked beans. sparkling wa­ter. Din­ner: home­made chicken and mush­room risotto. Snacks: four Cad­bury Twirl bites, Caramel bites; pop­corn, two chewy sweets.


Break­fast: slice seeded bread with jam, Yop yo­ghurt drink. Lunch: Veg­e­tar­ian sausage, mash, vanilla sponge, wa­ter. Din­ner: (at friend’s) three slices of pizza, sweet­corn, chips, cu­cum­ber, choco­late chip muf­fin. Wa­ter. Snacks: Car­rot, sat­suma, hand­ful of cher­ries, red pep­per, dried mango, kit kat.


Break­fast: seeded bread, jam, Yop drink. Lunch: Lasagne, cookie, wa­ter. Din­ner: Two fish fin­gers, chips, ketchup, grapes, ap­ple juice box. Snacks: sug­arsnap peas, dried mango, pep­per, dried apri­cots. Three hari­bos, bag of snack­a­jacks rice cakes, ap­ple and honey.


Break­fast: seeded bread, jam, Yop drink. Lunch: (from home) hum­mus bagel, fruit win­der, 20 white choco­late but­tons, pep­per sticks, olives, sat­suma, sug­arsnap peas. Din­ner: Baked salmon and whole­wheat pesto pasta, broc­coli, cauliflower. sparkling wa­ter.


Break­fast: seeded bread, jam, Yop drink. Lunch: Two beef sausages and mash, wa­ter, choco­late cake. Din­ner: Three fish fin­gers, potato wedges, peas, grapes, sparkling wa­ter. Snacks: Two Cel­e­bra­tions, fun­size fudge bar, car­rot, sug­arsnaps, sat­suma, snack­a­jacks, ap­ple.


Break­fast: seeded bread, jam, Yop drink. Lunch: fish fin­gers, chips, sparkling wa­ter. Din­ner: Bread and chicken broth, chicken breast, roast pota­toes, peas. fruit salad. frozen ap­ple juice box. Snacks: Crisps, ap­ple slices with honey. Av­er­age sugar per day: 86g = 21.5 cubes (Rec­om­mended max: 24g/6 cubes) Weekly to­tal: 602g = 150.5 cubes (Rec. max: 168g = 42 cubes)


I’M STUNNED! I’m pretty strict about Sadie’s diet, but she eats more rub­bish than I re­alised, par­tic­u­larly when I’m not around.

I’m heart­ened she eats plenty of fruit, doesn’t have sug­ary drinks and rarely eats dessert. So where is all the sugar com­ing from? I started buy­ing the yo­ghurt drink Yop to give her more cal­cium — I thought I was in­tro­duc­ing some­thing healthy but didn’t con­sider the hid­den sug­ars.

Mean­while, Sadie’s school lunches aren’t as healthy as I’d as­sumed and nei­ther are sup­pers made by our au pair. Where I will cook salmon or roast chicken, I’ve been happy to let the au pair feed them fishfin­gers, pizza or pasta.

When Sadie goes to a friend’s house, what she eats is out of my con­trol. But I take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for these re­sults. From now on I’m go­ing to give more thought to hid­den sug­ars.


AT WEEK­ENDS Mummy lets me have cook­ies and ice cream as a treat af­ter I’ve been swim­ming but there are quite a few things she doesn’t like me eat­ing.

She wouldn’t want me to have too many marsh­mal­lows. I know that too much sugar is bad.

I try to eat healthily. I like eat­ing fruit and veg­eta­bles. But it can be con­fus­ing know­ing what’s bad for me.


SADIE reaches her tar­get of five por­tions of fruit and veg­eta­bles most days, which is great.

Her school lunches could be im­proved by in­clud­ing a por­tion of veg­eta­bles. Sadie could also limit eat­ing high-sugar snacks to three times a week.

It’s also worth not­ing that jams and some ketchups con­tain sugar — and dried fruits con­tain more sugar than fresh.


An­gela Crab­tree, 43, a con­tracts direc­tor, lives near bris­tol with her hus­band James, 43, a pro­gramme man­ager at rolls-royce, and their chil­dren thomas, ten, and Jenna, eight, who is 4ft 7in.


Break­fast: Chee­rios, milk. LUNCH: Ham and mayo sand­wich, crisps, squash, rich Tea bis­cuits, five Mal­te­sers. Din­ner: Margherita pizza, ba­nana, lol­lipop Snacks: One Go Ahead bar, one ce­real bar.


Break­fast: krave choco­late ce­real with milk. LUNCH: Ham and cheese toastie, choco­late bar, crisps. Din­ner: Gam­mon, roast pota­toes, broc­coli, parsnips, car­rots, gravy, milk ice lolly. Snacks: Car­rot sticks, hot choco­late, ce­real bar, sweets.


Break­fast: One Weetabix with milk and honey. LUNCH: Pasta with meat sauce. Din­ner: Wrap with ham, crisps. Snacks: Bun, ham, raisins, Parma vi­o­let sweets.


Break­fast: Two Weetabix with milk and honey. LUNCH: Ham wrap, crisps, choco­late bar, car­rot sticks. Din­ner: Meat­balls and pasta.


Break­fast: Two Weetabix, milk, honey. LUNCH: Ham and cheese pizza, a bis­cuit. Din­ner: Ham wrap, crisps, car­rot sticks. Snacks: Toast, bis­cuit, or­ange.


Break­fast: One Weetabix, milk, honey. LUNCH: Cheese wrap, crisps, choco­late bar. Din­ner: Chicken nuggets, fries, peas, bar­be­cue sauce, ba­nana. Snacks: Tomato pasta, hot choco­late, marsh­mal­lows, bis­cuit.


Break­fast: Two Weetabix with milk. LUNCH: Ham wrap, Hula Hoops, choco­late bar. Wa­ter. Din­ner: Three chipo­latas, mash and baked beans. Greek yo­ghurt. Snacks: Toast, or­ange, jelly, one bis­cuit.


I AM HOR­RI­FIED — par­tic­u­larly by her school lunches. Quite apart from the sugar in them, where are the veg­eta­bles?

Jenna has cooked meals at school on the days she goes to Brown­ies be­cause there isn’t time for a hot din­ner at home. The rest of the week she has a packed lunch. I see she ig­nores the fruit I pack in favour of choco­late, so I’m go­ing to drop the treats for a while.

There’s no doubt she’s hav­ing a lot more sugar than she should be. My son has just had braces fit­ted and isn’t al­lowed sticky sweets or choco­late, so we have stopped buy­ing these. It’s a start.


IN MY lunches I know that the fruit such as ba­nana or blue­ber­ries is healthy. But some­times I eat the bis­cuit and crisps first and then I’m full up so I leave the fruit.

My favourite food is take­away pizza. I also love raw pep­pers and car­rots and I know they’re bet­ter for me but some­times I pre­fer pizza. At school we can choose a salad with our lunch but I don’t.


I NO­TICE Jenna’s packed lunches al­ways in­clude a choco­late bar or bis­cuit — this should be swapped for a piece of fruit or car­rot or pep­per on at least three days.

It’s easy to gloss over the sugar con­tent in snack bars and yo­ghurts but they can con­tain as much as three tea­spoons — nearly half the rec­om­mended in­take for a whole day. It can be tricky, but par­ents should work with their chil­dren to make health­ier choices. Av­er­age sugar per day: 74g = 18.5 cubes (Rec­om­mended max: 24g/6 cubes) Weekly to­tal: 518g = 129.5 cubes (Rec. max: 168g = 42 cubes)

SADIE 10 150 sugar cubes a week

JENNA 8 129 sugar cubes a week

JESS 12 122 sugar cubes a week

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