Sickening truth about how much sugar children are eating
We asked three girls to keep a food diary. The results horrified their mums
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…?
JESS’S FOOD DIARY
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)
MUM CLAIRE’S VERDICT
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.
DAUGHTER JESSICA SAYS
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.
SADIE’S FOOD DIARY
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)
MUM KATIE’S VERDICT
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.
DAUGHTER SADIE SAYS
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.
JENNA’S FOOD DIARY
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.
MUM ANGELA’S VERDICT
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.
DAUGHTER JENNA SAYS
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