Sugar & Children

Let’s start here: Children aged four to eight should be consuming no more than three teaspoons of sugar a day. These are the recommendations from the American Heart Association.

That sounds reasonable, and manageable, right?

Well, here’s the scary truth.

  • A glass of apple juice contains 8-10 teaspoons of sugar (the same as a can of Coke).
  • The average bowl of cereal has three teaspoons of sugar.
  • A slice of white toast with jam has four teaspoons of sugar.

Our children are eating 3-4 times the recommended daily intake, and that’s before they leave the breakfast table!

Why should we be concerned?

Well, here’s what sugar does to kids:

  • Sugar alters the palette. Studies have shown that sugar strips the body of vital nutrients, and in particular zinc. Zinc is essential in the development of taste and palate in young children.
  • Sugar causes mood disorders. Kids who eat diets high in refined sugar are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and mood disorders.
  • Sugar makes kids fat.
  • Sugar causes behavioural problems. High sugar diets inhibit the body’s ability to absorb vital nutrients, resulting in the body being deficient in micronutrients. These deficiencies (particularly iron) have been linked to behavioural disorders – like ADHD – in young children.
  • Sugar inhibits the immune system. Sugar destroys the functions of bacteria, fighting white blood cells and wreaking havoc for up to five hours after ingestion. It also interferes with the absorption of Vitamin C, one of the essential nutrients for immune function.
  • Sugar makes kids aggressive.

These days sugar is masked by an extensive list of tricky words including barley malt extract, sucrose, fruit concentrate, fruit puree, fruit pulp, glucose, lactose, fructose, sorbitol, mannitol, corn syrup, honey, malt, malt extract, maltose, rice extract, molasses, golden syrup, invert sugar, fruit pulp and fruit extract. If you see any of these names on a packet leave it on the shelf!

What about fruit?

I’m not suggesting you strip fruit from your child’s diet. Children are growing little humans who need a wide variety of whole foods. However, some fruit is very high in natural sugar and low in fibre, so eat fibre rich fruits. Eat fruits with a protein (e.g., apples slices with cheese or berries & nuts).

Beware: Fruit juice and dried fruits are not healthy options.

A “no added sugar” apple juice and a glass of coke both have 8-10 teaspoons of sugar. A snack pack of sultanas and the same amount of jellybeans both have six teaspoons of sugar.

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