Most children love sugar. That is a fact we cannot ignore. Whichever form you present it in, whether as cakes, candy, or ice cream, kids are sure to relish it. Furthermore, kids consume sugar in the form of packaged or processed food, and even certain fruits. The huge consumption of sugar can make parents worry about the health of their child. And their concerns are valid!
Which Sugars Do Kids Eat?
Children gain access to sugar through the following sources:
- Bakery and confectionery products such as cookies, plain milk chocolate, candies, cakes, pastries, buns, jam and chocolate spread.
- Ready to eat cereals including corn flakes, flavored oats, and Muesli.
- Beverages like commercially available fruit juice, soft drinks, and aerated drinks.
- Dairy products like flavored milk, flavored yogurt, and ice cream.
- Condiments like sauce, ketchup, and salad dressing.
How Does Sugar Affect Us?
According to a study conducted by the American Heart Association, the recommended sugar intake for children between 2-18 years of age is 6 teaspoons per day. Consuming excess sugar can have many adverse effects on your child’s health.
Tooth cavities: Cavities in the teeth are the most common problem when consuming excess sugar. When a child eats or drinks sugar or sweet products, the bacteria in the mouth comes in contact with the sugar, producing an acid that ruins the teeth and promotes the production of a cavity. When a child sucks candies or lollipops, the exposure to the sugar is prolonged and can cause more damage to the teeth.
Similarly, drinking soft drinks and other fruit juices also increases sugar exposure, and leads to cavity formation. If your child is consuming a lot of sweets, you should visit a family practice center near you, and get their teeth cleaned at regular intervals to prevent the onset of cavities.
Obesity: The likelihood of becoming overweight or obese increases if the child consumes more sugar. The calorie content in sugar is very high. Therefore, if the child eats more sugar, it results in more substantial calorie intake. High calorie intake can eventually lead to excess weight gain and obesity. An examination by a family practitioner will reveal whether your child is obese or not.
Low nutritional level: There is very little nutritional value in sugar. Thus, consuming more sugar will only increase calorie intake without providing any nutritional input. Children usually eat and drink sugar-laden food at the cost of nutritious food. Furthermore, as the nutrient level of the body plummets, the body’s ability to fight off infection decreases. A high sugar intake can speed up tooth decay caused as a result of excess sugar consumption.
If your child is consuming a lot of sugar and falls sick occasionally, then you should consult a doctor in a pediatric care unit. They will be able to access the nutritional level of the child and whether they have Type 2 diabetes based on the main symptoms of diabetes.
Consider these 5 tips to keep your child’s sugar intake at bay, leading to a healthier life.
Replace sugary drinks with water
It is easy to overlook, but choosing a healthier drink is key to a balanced diet. Rather than exposing children to soda, carbonated soft drinks, sports drinks, and energy drinks introduce them to plain water. Sugary drinks speed up weight gain and contribute to poor oral health. Although the intake of such beverages cannot be completely abolished, it should be managed and controlled. Parents should encourage children to eat more fruits and accompany them with water or milk. This is one of the best tips to avoid the health consequences of sugar and to ensure healthy eating habits at an early age.
If your child loves fizzy drinks, you can dilute them with water, reducing the amount of sugar they receive (although not eliminating it). Provide your child with a refillable water bottle, and encourage them to refill it several times a day. Water will quench their thirst rather than a sugary drink.
Avoid processed food
According to research, more than half of the calories consumed by individuals come from heavily processed food, while less than one-third comes from unprocessed or minimally processed foods. Food products with artificial colors, flavors, additives, and emulsifiers are associated with an increased risk of cancer. Homemade food is rich in nutrients and fiber, and healthy for your child. Instead of processed food, your child should be encouraged to enjoy homemade food, distracting them from having packed products.
Pack snacks ahead of time
We often choose convenience over health. Planning ahead, however, make a huge difference in the amount of sugar your child consumes. Snacks such as celery,cheese, almond butter, pretzels, ginger salad, homemade fish crackers, toast with egg and avocado, and sweet potato chips can keep your child fuller for longer. Try to pack both sweet and salty snacks ahead of time to fulfill your child’s preferences .
Fresh fruits and vegetables
There is little downside to adding more fruit and vegetables to your child’s overall diet. Aside from the nutritional values, it also adds more colors to the meals, making it look more appealing. Half an orange can give your child a significant vitamin C boost, and leafy greens such as spinach and kale are bursting with iron, an essential part of your child’s overall energy levels.
A diet that contains lots of fruits and vegetables helps to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke as well as maintaining blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes.Sufficient fruit and vegetables also supply fiber to their diet and help prevent constipation. Of course, it can be a challenge to convince a child to eat these food items and some creativity is required.
Here you can try hiding vegetables in meals without your child noticing. For example, you can make a spaghetti sauce with hidden vegetables that your child is sure to love.
Homemade food allows you to control the ingredients in your meal. It lets you use natural ingredients, which are usually low in sodium, fat, and added sugar. Cooking at home gives you the ability to control the sugar your child consumes. As a parent, you can caution the portion, and reduce your child’s urge to indulge in the unhealthy consumption of sugar. You can creatively make meals that will attract your child, but most importantly, they have the nutrients they need. Make it a habit that everyone cultivates in to encourage excellent lifelong habits.
Overconsumption of sugar can have seriously harmful effects on your child. Our caring team of clinicians is here for every member of your family, from babies to older adults. Click here to make an appointment today.