A worrying new study has revealed that the sugar intake levels of children aged four to 10 are twice what they should be, whilst teenage children are consuming up to three times as much sugar. Despite initiatives aiming to lower the sugar intake of both children and adults, it seems that sugar consumption remains high, as does the risk of childhood obesity. Public Health England is now aiming to challenge the food industry to cut sugar content by 20%. There are plenty of things that families can do to reduce their sugar content and ensure healthier lifestyles through self-care.
Change breakfast habits
For many of us, a common breakfast involves cereal, some fruit juice and a sugary cuppa. However, many cereals, particularly those aimed at children are packed with sugar and often leave us feeling hungry again after a couple of hours, leading to cravings for sugary mid-morning snacks. A healthy breakfast packed with protein makes a much better alternative, with options such as eggs, lean meats and porridge sweetened with natural honey offers a much more satisfying, and low-sugar breakfast.
Offer healthier snacks at lunchtime
It can be difficult and costly to fill lunchboxes, and whilst some snacks are a cheap way to finish off a packed lunch, they can be very high in sugar. Instead of putting a chocolate bar or some biscuits in the lunchbox, a yoghurt, cheese triangle or a piece of fruit makes a much better alternative. A small carton of low sugar fruit juice is a great way to add something sweet, without having to resort to added sugar. Change 4 Life has some excellent ideas for easy snack swaps for children.
Avoid sugary drinks
Whilst the survey found that the level of sugary drink consumption by children has dropped, sugary drinks are still responsible for a high amount of children’s sugar intake. Sugary drinks are often high in calories which many parents don’t realise could be contributing to weight gain. There are a lot of great alternatives to fizzy drinks including coconut water and sparkling water with fresh fruit added. Fruit and herbal teas can also be made in iced versions to give the sweet element, but without the sugar. Water should be the most important drink of the day, and investing in a fruit-infusing water bottle for your child could be a great way to help them drink their recommended daily intake of water.
Try natural sweeteners
As more and more people become concerned with their sugar intake, more alternatives to sugar are being released on the market. Many health food stores sell natural sweeteners which are ideal for baking or for using in hot drinks, whilst honey is one of the best natural sweeteners you can buy. It’s great for using in yoghurt, on cereal and for making sweet baked goods. Using fruit in some recipes as opposed to chocolate, caramel and other high sugar ingredients is another way to provide the sweet element without the sugar.
Make the effort to practice home cooking
So many families still rely on the convenience of ready meals and store-bought sauces to help them at meal times. Despite repeated concerns from the healthcare industry, these foods are still high in sugar and salt. Many dishes are simple to cook at home using few ingredients and provide a much healthier option to ready meals and convenience foods. Taking some time on the weekend to batch-cook meals means you can freeze dishes for those nights where you don’t feel like cooking. It also means you won’t have to spend hours slaving away after a tough day at work. Get all the family involved and make the most of slow cookers and other tools to make the process easier.
The NHS’s Change 4 Life initiative is designed to help families make healthier lifestyle choices, and includes the Sugar Smart app to help you work out exactly what is in your food. Educating your children now on healthy eating will encourage habits they will carry with them through adulthood and help them ward off obesity and the health problems that come with it.