A sweetie here, a cupcake there and before you know it, your kids are consuming way more of the sweet stuff than they ought to be. Then there’s the hidden sugars in muesli bars and other packaged foods. So just how much sugar is your child eating? And more importantly, what’s a healthy amount?
Susie Burrell is a leading nutritionist, mum to twin bubs, Harry and Gus and Philips Sonicare brand ambassador. And she is on a mission to educate parents about their kids’ sugar intake and good dental hygiene. “For some time there has been discussion in the media about the amounts of sugar the average adult eats on a daily basis,” Susie explains. “Unfortunately, we have heard far less about the enormous amounts of sugar our children are consuming and the huge impact this can have on their weight, metabolism and dental health long-term.”
So how much sugar is your child eating? “You may be surprised where it is slipping into their diets,” says Susie. “The funny thing about sugar is that it is naturally occurring in a number of foods. For example, fruits contain the natural sugar fructose while dairy contains the natural sugar lactose. Indeed, small amounts (20-30g) of natural sugars consumed each day as part of a healthy diet poses little to no health issues.”
“The issue in modern diets is that we are very good at concentrating these sugars – turning fresh fruit into juice with 2-3x the amount of sugars you would get from a piece of fruit, or consuming milk in a smoothie that also has honey and fruit added which gives you another 20-30g of sugars without us realising. It’s these concentrated sources of sugar, as well as the huge amounts of added sugars found in many processed foods that tips our, and our kids, intake of added sugars over the edge.”
The World Health Organization’s new Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children recommends reduced intake of free sugars throughout the life course. “In both adults and children, the intake of free sugars should be reduced to less than 10% of total energy intake. A further reduction to below 5% of total energy intake would provide additional health benefits.”
However, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics ‘Australian Health Survey: Consumption of added sugars’ report, just over half of all Australians aged 2 years and over exceeded the WHO recommendation to limit energy from free sugars to less than 10% of dietary energy.
“Children and teenagers were most likely to exceed the recommendation with almost three-quarters of 9-13 and 14-18 year olds usually consuming 10% or more of their dietary energy from free sugars,” the report reveals. “The highest 10% of 14-18 year olds were deriving at least 23% of their energy from free sugars.”
The Bitter-Sweet Issues
Susie says when it comes to our children’s diets, it is actually quite challenging to keep daily sugar intake low simply because so many of the popular kid’s foods contain added sugars. “Over the past 5-10 years food manufacturers have been working to significantly reduce the sugar content of popular kid’s foods including muesli bars, breakfast cereals and snack foods,” Susie explains. “While this is a step in the right direction there are still plenty of fruit snacks, drinks, flavoured yoghurts and biscuits that are packed full of added sugars.”
“Foods with high amount of sugars increase blood glucose levels over time, increase the desire we have for sweet foods and leave our teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay. For this reason, the less of these sugars we expose our kids to on a daily basis, the better.”
Finding The Sweet Spot
Susie says “as a general rule of thumb, choosing packaged foods that do not list sugar on the ingredient list is a step in the right direction, and looking for products that contain less than 10g of sugars per 100g, or less than 5g per serve. When it comes to added sugars, less than 20-30g of added sugars per day for children is ideal.”
Related: 5 Healthy Halloween Treats For Kids
Sugar Swap Guide For Parents
Confused by the nutrition labels? This handy guide compiled by Susie will help you make healthier choices.
Typical Kids’ Diet
|Weetbix and sugar||10g|
|Muffin or banana bread||25g|
|Milkshake or smoothie||30g|
|Meat and tomato sauce||5g|
Low Sugar Option
|Eggs on toast||0g|
|Small flavoured milk||20g|
|Meat and low sugar sauce||2g|
|Greek yoghurt and berries||0g|
Sweet Arsenal: Electric Toothbrush Review
Banning sweets from the menu is likely to go down like a lead balloon. So monitor their intake and arm the kids with some great dental hygiene tips and arsenal. Here, Maxwell, 7, reviews the new Philips Sonicare For Kids Sonic electric toothbrush to find out what all the buzz is about…
How important is it for you to have healthy teeth? “My friend had two rotten teeth pulled out by the dentist and he showed us them at school. You could see all the black holes in them. I have lots of my baby teeth still but four adult front teeth. I want to make sure I clean my teeth properly and protect them, so they don’t go yellow or decay.”
First thoughts on the electric toothbrush? “I like it! It came with all different stickers. I stuck the skulls and monsters on the toothbrush handle. It looks cool.”
How does it feel? “Tickly at first, but then you get used to it and it just feels good. Like a teeth massage! My teeth feel super clean after brushing with it. It’s easier than using a toothbrush because it’s electric and does all the work. I just need to move it along my teeth. It’s faster too – just two minutes. Mum makes me brush my teeth for longer when I use a normal toothbrush.”
Would you recommend it? “Yes, it’s cool! And it’s easier than doing circles on your teeth with a normal toothbrush. It has two power settings too, so you can brush full throttle!”
For more information visit Philips Sonicare For Kids Sonic electric toothbrush.
*This includes natural and added sugars. Main image: Photography by Skating Nun