We were on the beach when "Mimi" (grandmother) arrived to greet a gaggle of expectant grandchildren. Having driven down from France, she was hot and tired.
As were the marshmallows she was holding in her hand.
My kids swarmed around her like bees to a honey pot.
Gracie, my niece, looked at them with trepidation, unsure of the sticky mess that was being proffered as a rare treat.
"You'll like them!" Her dad reassured her.
"They've got sugar in them!"
Isn't that the truth! Marshmallows definitely have sugar in them and children love anything that contains sugar.
I'm sure you're aware that sugar contributes to children being overweight and obesity.
A little bit of sugar isn't anything to worry about but nowadays sugar is added to just about everything, even things that you wouldn't really expect to have sugar in.
Go check out your tin of baked beans. (In fact, this is a fantastic and really easy sugar free baked beans recipe.)
And marshmallows don't contain "a bit of sugar", they are essentially just sugar.
So how much sugar is too much? And how are we as busy parents supposed to strike a sensible balance?
Today, Stacey from My Kids Lick the Bowl, is here to tell us all about sugar and kids. Go and check out her site of loads of delicious and easy to make low sugar treat.
I have taken notes of the main points of her talk.
This talk was originally published as part of the Healthy Eating for Kids Summit. If you'd like to view the rest of the talks, you can purchase access to the talks here.
We are seeing a rise in weight problems in children.
Most children consume more than the recommended amount of sugar.
In NZ 15 of those teaspoons are sucrose (aka table sugar.)
The full guidelines are 59 pages long, you can find them here if you'd like to read them.
In summary the WHO recommends:
This excludes sugars that are naturally occurring in fruit and vegetables.
Added sugar or "free sugar" is sugar that is added to a recipe or product (e.g. table sugar or fructose syrup.)
Added sugar also includes any way of modifying fresh fruit and vegetables. E.g. adding fruit juice to sweeten something counts as added sugar.
The AHA guidelines are a mere 19 pages. You can read them in full here (go to the "download PDF").
In summary the AHA recommend:
2-18 year olds: less than 25 grams of added sugar a day.
This equates to 6 teaspoons.
Most Children Are Eating Too Much Sugar Everyday!
Sugars are simple molecules of carbohydrates. (Either "monosaccharides" or "disaccharides" meaning they have 1 or 2 molecules accordingly.)
Examples of monosaccharides are glucose, fructose and galactose.
Sucrose (table sugar) is a disaccharide that is made up of glucose and fructose.
Our bodies metabolise all these simple sugars in a similar way.
Although different types of sugar are treated differently in regards to processing (e.g. some of them are less refined than others) the "sugar molecules" are the same in all sugars.
The chemical structure of different sugars is the same.
For example, cane sugar, sugar beet, coconut sugar and maple syrup are all sucrose a disaccharide made up of glucose and fructose.
Honey is made up of the mono saccharides glucose and fructose (i.e. they aren't joined up to form a disaccharide.)
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Although using less refined sugars has the benefit of it being less refined it doesn't give you less sugar.
ALL of these sugars count as added sugars.
Use whichever sugar you think tastes best for that recipe but try to use the least amount possible.
The sugar most often found in fruit is fructose. If it has been extracted into, for example, high fructose corn syrup, it is considered an added sugar.
If fructose is eaten as part of an entire fruit or vegetable (with all those other added nutrients and fibre) it doesn't count as added sugar.
Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar found in diary products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt and breast milk.
Diary products (with no other added sugar) don't count as added sugar.
However, it's important to look at the label as lots of yogurts have sucrose (or another form of sugar) added to them.
Although dried fruit doesn't count as "added fruit" it is high in sugar.
A portion of dried fruit is equivalent of 2 portions of fresh fruit.
For example, a small handful of raisins is equal to 2 small handfuls of grapes.
In a small box of raisins, you'll find roughly 32 raisins which is the same as 32 grapes. (Grapes are one of fruits with the highest sugar content.)
You don't need to exclude dried fruit (in fact, they're a great alternative to candy and other shop bought treats that have very high contents of sugar).
You do need to be aware of how much sugar they contain so that you don't offer them exclusively instead of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Related: How to Stop Kids Preferring Snacks to Regular Meals
Drinks are one of the biggest contributors of sugar in kids diets.
In New Zealand, 25% of kid's sugar intake is from what they drink.
One of the easiest ways to reduce sugar in your kid's diet is to cut out sugared drinks.
Here's a list of average sugar content by drink:
The best drink for your kids is water for children over the age of 1, with the occasional glass of milk.
Another alternative to water is "mint tea" just had boiling water to some fresh mint and wait for it to cool. Serve as it is. It doesn't need honey or sweetener!
Related: 5 Fun Ways to Help Your Child Drink Water
Related: A Simple, Healthier Alternative to Soda
In the ingredients section, the ingredients are listed from highest proportion to lowest proportion.
There is most of the ingredient that comes first, then less of the second etc.
If sugar (or one of its many names) appears in the first 3 ingredients, it's probably a high sugar product.
Sometimes you'll find that it is listed twice under two different names!
Check out the other talks in the summit here.
Healthy eating is about striking a balance in what we eat and what we offer our children to eat.
You don't have to exclude sugar entirely from your diet, but it is wise to become aware of which products contain sugar and find alternatives.
To find more of Stacey's post and her fabulous "lower sugar" recipes, go to My Kids Lick the Bowl.
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