Let's talk about sugar. More and more we are seeing headline over headline about the dangers of eating too much "added/free sugars".
Although a great ingredient (when used in moderation) to help enhance flavour and make certain food more palatable, sugar is a dangerous thing when used without monitoring.
TOO MUCH SUGAR
Years of studies and research have linked sugar to cause problems like weight gain, which in turn can increase the chances of heart disease, certain types of cancer and type 2 diabetes. Sugar is also the most common cause for tooth decay.
Let's be clear though, we are talking about "added/free sugars" and not the naturally found sugars in fruit, vegetables and dairy. Because these sugars are part of a structure, they are usually easier to process for our bodies and do not create the same sugar spikes as "added/free sugars" and leave you feeling full for longer.
The only time you have to be careful of natural occurring sugars is when fruits and vegetables are blended in smoothies or juices as the food loses its structure and the sugars are then released into the body at a much faster pace.
The NHS gives a clear allowance for "added/free sugars" on their website:
- Under 4 should have no added sugars in their diet!
- Children 4-6 no more than 19g (5 sugar cubes) a day
- Children 7-10 no more than 24g (6 sugar cubes) a day
Easier said than done! Unless you make everything, and I mean everything from scratch (no restaurants either) you and your children are going to eat added sugars at some point or another.
The key is just to monitor the intake, and make healthier swaps when possible.
For example, giving water instead of juices as drink, keep the juices as a treat for birthday parties, the occasional weekend or an impromptu lunch out.
Always offer fruits and vegetables as a snack when possible or healthier snack with good nutritional values like a slice of bread and 100% nut butters with no added sugars.
Most importantly read your labels!!!
Reading labels can be tricky, so here are a few tips on how to navigate them:
- Anything with less than 5g of sugar per 100g is classified as low in sugar
- Reduced sugar, usually contains around 30% less sugar than the standard version of the product. When it come to reduced sugar or fat products, always double check all the ingredients as to reduce one ingredients others might have been added.
-No added sugars, usually means that there are only naturally occurring sugars.
To top it all off "added/free sugars" are mostly found in process and ready made food and come under all forms of names:
sugar, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, rice syrup, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, molasses and more. Here is a complete list.
To make things easier though most foods now display a traffic light system labels so always check this as well, anything green is a go, yellow in moderation and red is a no no.
So although not easy, sugar intake can be monitored and controlled and it does get easier with time, so stick with it, even when it feels like a chore, your body and your kids will thank you for it.