Why do we give children so much sugar? Biscuits, cake, pocket money spent on sweets, more sweets given by relatives, goody bags and cake at birthday parties, and chocolate at Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. Children should get no more than 11 per cent of their calories from added sugar, yet according to a survey by Public Health England, the average child gets around 15 per cent of their calories from added sugar. What’s more, many children ingest far more than this.
We all want children to be healthy. So then why are so we doing the opposite by giving them so much sugar?
The reasons we give children sugar
Some reasons we give sugar to children are:
- We like making children happy.
- We associate childhood with treats like sweets, cake and chocolate.
- We don’t like fighting with children over food; it’s easier to just give them what they want.
- Peer pressure: children are teased at school if their lunchboxes contain healthy food instead of junk food.
Why is sugar bad for children?
The effects of sugar on teeth are well-known: plaque, decay, and even tooth loss. Despite this, many parents give their young children sugary drinks like juice and cordial. One study found that 12 per cent of three-year-olds already have tooth decay. In some parts of the UK, this figure rises to a third.
You might be thinking, “Does tooth loss in childhood really matter? Don’t baby teeth fall out anyway?” Yes – but it’s still important to look after baby teeth. This is because problems with baby teeth can affect adult teeth later on down the road.
And of course, sugar isn’t just bad for teeth. It’s also detrimental to other aspects of health too. Sugar has been linked to diseases like diabetes, obesity and hypertension.
What can I do about my kids eating sugar?
Here’s a few tips about how to improve your children’s diets and reduce their sugar intake:
- Limit the amount of sugary foods in your house. Simply stop buying junk food like chocolate milk, sugary cereals, cakes, and biscuits. Instead, buy healthier alternatives like carrots, hummus, rice cakes, low sugar cereals, peanut butter, cheese, popcorn, and fruit. Your children won’t be happy at first, but it’s for the good of their long-term health.
- Set a good example. At meal times, give your children the same food you’re eating. Children like to mimic their parents’ behaviour; if they see you eating broccoli, they’ll be more likely to eat it too.
- Don’t force your children to eat healthy foods. Don’t say things like “eat your vegetables”. Studies have found that forcing children to eat food will only make them more likely to resist.
- Get kids to cook with you. Children are more likely to eat food that they’ve helped to create. So, have your child help prepare a salad, or get her to cut vegetables if she’s old enough.
Also, remember that cutting down on sugar is just one part of a healthy childhood; don’t forget the importance of regular dentist appointments for your children too.