Everything you ever wanted to know about sugar & how to keep your child “sugar free”

7 practical ways to cut back sugar from your child’s diet

Sugary foods not only provide instant energy, but they are also an essential part of any celebration or special occasion. Most children and even adults like sweet treats every now and then. However, sugar often has empty calories and can offer more problems than benefits. If your child is consuming too much sugar, it is time to monitor his/her diet.

This article explains why too much sugar is unhealthy for your child and how you can reduce his/her sugar intake.

Why should you reduce your child’s sugar consumption?

Consumption of excessive sugar can lead to a variety of health problems, ranging from dental caries and obesity to type 2 diabetes and heart diseases. Effects of sugar on toddlers can last throughout their lifetime too. Added sugars are found in many food items that we are usually unaware of. They only provide calories and no nutrition.

Types of sugar

Sugar that we consume can be of various types. The most common ones are:

  1. White sugar - Also known as table sugar, 99.9% of it is sucrose. One teaspoon of it has 16 Kcal and these are empty calories that have no nutritive value at all.
  2. Brown sugar - This is produced either through minimal processing, thus retaining the molasses, or by mixing white sugar with molasses. It gives 12 Kcal/ teaspoon and also contains iron, some amount of potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
  3. Jaggery - Sugarcane juice is extracted by crushing the canes, and the juice is then heated to produce crystals that later solidify into blocks or jaggery. Jaggery contains small amounts of B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. It gives 35 Kcal/10 grams as per IFCT, 2017. It helps in blood purification, metabolism, smooth functioning of the nervous system, and gives relief from cough and cold, and is considered as a good cleansing agent.
  4. Honey - Most of it is made up of fructose while the rest is glucose and water. It is also a good source of calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin B and C, and antioxidants. It gives 20 Kcal/teaspoon. It helps in lowering cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and suppressing cough and cold. But it should be consumed in moderate amounts because of its high calorific value.

Sources of sugar

Some of the most common foods that have sugar in them are beverages like soda, fruit punch, sweet coffee and energy drinks, sugary cereals, candies, chocolates, flavoured yoghurt and baked goodies like cakes, pastries and cookies.

Sugar can also be hidden in some foods where we do not expect them, like whole-grain cereals, granola, instant oatmeal, frozen foods, protein and cereal bars, pasta sauce, dried and canned fruit, baby food, ketchup, and other condiments.

Interestingly, sugar may be represented with more than 50 different names on an ingredient label. Some common names of sugar is cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, raw sugar, crystal solids, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, etc. For kids who need only 1200 to 1400 Kcal per day, recommended sugar intake is less than 7 to 8 tsp (30 to 35 grams) in a day.

Great tips to reduce sugar in your kid’s diet

If you are worried that your children are consuming too much sugar, here are a few ways to reduce their sugar consumption:

  1. The best way to limit sugar for kids is by planning a low sugar diet. When you are shopping for groceries, read the labels and be on the lookout for sugar and its various aliases.
  2. Choose more fresh fruits and vegetables which are naturally sweet, for baking and cooking, like bananas, sweet potatoes, and apples. You can even add sweetness to your kid’s meal by introducing something as simple as a mashed banana into their oatmeal.
  3. Healthy beverage choices can be plain water, milk, unsweetened tea, etc. You can even add fruits or herbs to water to make it more interesting. Try and cook sauces and other such foods at home, so that you can avoid the sugars that go into these.
  4. Even though pure fresh fruit juice does not have any added sugars, the natural sugar already present in it contributes to the extra calories. Try to avoid packaged fruit juice and make it more at home for your children.

    For children below one year of age, juices should be completely avoided. Older kids can have juices in small quantities but sipping on them continuously can cause dental caries. If you are giving juices to your kids, then give these only at mealtimes, and once done with the meal, clear out the leftover juices.

  5. If your child has a sweet tooth, give him/her naturally sweet snacks like fresh fruits, frozen fruits, homemade fruit smoothies, dried fruits, apple slices smeared with peanut butter, homemade granola, etc. A cup of yoghurt or whole-grain cereal is better than a piece of candy, if your child is craving something sweet.
  6. Parents are also role models for kids. So, if you, as parents, follow a healthy lifestyle, your kids will do too.
  7. A completely sugar-free diet for kids never works out. So, make sure you help them nurture a healthy relationship with food by giving fruits and vegetables daily and by giving sweets only on special occasions.

Glycaemic index of foods

Glycaemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a specific food increases your blood sugar. The foods are ranked from 0 to 100. The higher the GI, the higher are the levels of processed carbohydrates and sugars in the food. Foods with low GI are absorbed more slowly, thus causing a slow release of sugar in the blood. So, adding more of low GI foods to your children’s diet will keep them full for a longer time period. This will help maintain a healthy weight.

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