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Sugar- start with the children

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A recent intake survey in the US which was published in The Journal of Public Health showed that almost everyone (96%) had given their child a sugary drink in the previous month. Categories included Fruit Juice Drinks ( eg. 25% juice) / Carbonated sugary drinks / Sports Drinks / Flavoured water eg. Vitamin Water / Energy Drinks / Iced Tea so it seems we’re all doing it. Some more than others with the most common choice being fruit juice drinks or carbonated soda / soft drinks.

Parents answered questions on which drinks they believed to be healthy alternatives to water. Almost all identified 100% fruit juice and milk as healthy options ( note that even 100% juice is ideally limited to 1 glass per day and is better substituted for 2 pieces of actual fruit so that fibre is consumed.)Many parents also reported that fruit juice drink, vitamin water or sports drink were also healthy options but are they right?

The World Health Organisation has recommended that all nations reduce their intake of added sugars to 10% of calories and suggest it would be even better if we could make it down to 5%.

To put this into perspective, if we just take the 10% goal this sets a target of:

Men: 12 – 14 tsp added sugar per day

Women: 10 tsp added sugar per day

Children: 7 tsp added sugar per day.

This still sounds like a reasonably generous limit until we look in children’s lunchboxes and find well meaning parents providing a 250ml fruit juice drink with 6tsp in that alone

The current estimates suggest that the average American consumes 32 tsp of added sugar per day and the average Australian consumes 25 tsp. About half of this intake comes from sugary drinks. We are way off the mark. Never mind the current trend to aim to cut out sugar altogether, just getting it down to 10% is going to be a battle.

We need to start young with our children and give them water to drink.

When my children were young, I gave them pocket money and if we were out and they requested a sugary drink or a fast food meal – I let them choose whether to buy that with their own money or I would be happy to pay for water or a sandwich. I found this an easy option for kids to decide how important those foods were to them. Usually they went with the healthy meal option but they knew they were free to choose, so there was no deprivation involved and no tantrums.

Stay tuned for the next entry showing clearly the number of teaspoons of sugar in various drinks so you can be on the lookout for unintended sugar.

What strategies do you use to encourage water or milk intake amongst the children in your life?

Thanks for this. When our child was growing up we were very careful about sugar. I was always amazed at how people would try to give him just one cookie, etc., as though we were depriving him. Today he is an adult with a good sense of his own nutritional needs. He loves Protein and is not addicted to caffeine, etc. Our treat beverage was seltzer Water. People give kids sugar to try to make them like them. What children want is a little bit of time and attention, to know that some one is listening. Here's to healthy kids who know how to read labels so they understand how to make good choices -- if you can't pronounce it, don't eat it! Thanks for a great piece.

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Thanks for posting this. What an interesting study – it shows what a deep-rooted problem sugar consumption is among American children. Even parents who want the best for their children are giving them sugary beverages, which are linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It is so important to be aware of what we are giving our children.

Sugary drinks are the top source of added sugars, ahead of the more “obvious” sources such as candy and Desserts. Children’s overall sugar consumption has decreased in recent years, but consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is still rampant. Thanks for this article!

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