As a parent, we always want our children to be healthy. We try our best to offer healthy foods, but sometimes, we forget to consider what they eat and how it might cause harm to their bodies. Being a parent comes with many tasks; sometimes, you feel tempted to give your young child or children sugary treats as a reward or as a bribe so they can give you some space to do things. Sometimes, I find myself guilty of this, but what matters most is not offering them sugary food always as an incentive. However, there are other ways to promote good behaviour; you can praise or reward them with a sticker of their favourite anime character. We can also encourage healthy eating by swapping the sugary treats with healthy fruits and veggies.
“The early years are when you give your child a foundation for establishing a proper diet. If kids learn about the importance of eating healthy early in their lives, they will not have to relearn as an adult”
It is advisable to occasionally treat your kids to sugary foods like ice cream, chocolates, cakes, biscuits, etc. Consuming sugary foods at an early age might not have any effect immediately but will be extended. Sometimes, this affects them significantly when they are growing into young teens. They tend to pick up unhealthy habits, thereby snacking and relying on junk foods.
There are many types of sugar; naturally occurring sugar and processed sugar. Some naturally occurring sugars are found in honey, sugar cane, raisin, dates, banana, milk, vegetables, etc.
Processed sugar is the sugar that has been added during the production of food. What makes some processed foods unhealthy are their high levels of sugar and salt. This does not mean we should cut down on them completely, but we should be aware of some of the processed foods that are less healthy. Some processed foods are bread, canned vegetables, breakfast cereals, cheese, cakes, biscuits, crisps, sausage rolls, bacon, etc. The best way to manage what you eat is by checking the nutrition labels or making homemade meals; that way, you know the amount of sugar and salt.
How much sugar can we consume?
Free sugars are added to food or drinks such as syrups, vegetable juices, smoothies and purees, fizzy drinks, cakes, biscuits, etc.
It is recommended that adults should have 30g or less of free sugar per day, approximately 7 sugar cubes. Children aged 7 to 10 years should have 24g or less free sugars per day, about 6 sugar cubes. Children aged 4 to 6 should have 19g or less free sugars per approximately 5 sugar cubes. The sugar consumption recommendations are taken from Sugar: the facts – Eat well
“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”
How does excessive sugar consumption affect your child’s health in the long term?
Sugar, especially the processed sugar or refined sugar, is more dangerous to children’s health when it is not controlled at an early age. It might not have any rapid effect but might take effect in the long term.
Let’s look at some of the health implications of high sugar consumption in a child’s body.
- Excessive sugar intake might lead to obesity at a young age.
- It may increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
- Consuming excess refined sugar can suppress the immune system, making them susceptible to infection.
- It brings about tooth decay and tooth loss at a young age.
- A high intake of sugar lowers the concentration of young people.
- It has been linked to asthma. Research work from Sonja Kiertein, Ph.D. of the Nestle Research Center in Switzerland, found that a heavy sugar diet causes the airways’ immune system to allergic inflammation. Some of these points are taken from Sharlene Post, “14 Negative Effects of Sugar on Kids and How to Avoid It,”
How to encourage healthy living in your child
We can only encourage our children to be healthy if we are practising the same thing. Children tend to imitate adults and learn from us. I know this because I make a vegetable-packed meal. My children become more interested in joining me while they leave theirs.
Promoting healthy eating –
Looks like a difficult task, but it’s relatively easy, I promise. Start by buying healthy snacks, like fruits, vegetables, dark chocolate, fewer sugar biscuits such as crackers, crisps that contain less salt. Encourage young people to make homemade meals with you. Swap sugar for honey and reduce breakfast cereals with high amounts of sugars. Instead, offer them eggs, cheese, milk, and even nuts but be aware of nut allergies in some children. Where possible, feed your child often about 5-6 times a day and give them lots of water; they will become less cranky and happier. You can achieve this by ensuring the pantry is stocked up with healthy snacks. Even when they are hungry, they will be left with healthy choices. Make their food look presentable and creative. For more tips, read an article on our blog 10 creative tips to get your kids to eat. – De Splendour
Checking for hidden sugars-
Be aware of some added sugars in some products, especially canned foods, sauces like tomato ketchup, barbecue, and sweet chili sauce. There are some so-called healthy snacks like protein bars, cereal bars that contain high quantities of sugar, and some squash that might be high in sugar or sweeteners. Always check nutrition labels before purchasing some products.
Encouraging good oral hygiene –
You can encourage oral hygiene practice by reducing sticky foods like toffee, syrups, etc., to mealtimes. Minimising the number of sugary drinks, sweets, or candies to once a week as a treat. Encourage and supervise your children to brush before going to bed to eliminate any deposits or bacteria on the teeth. It is also important to rinse your child’s mouth with water after eating sugary food. Educating them on the importance of tooth brushing and ensuring they attend their dentist appointment at least once yearly will go a long way in protecting their smiles.
The most important way to curb sugar is by being disciplined and firm as a parent by always preaching and practising a healthy lifestyle. The key to healthy eating is moderation or portion control and being aware of processed sugars that can cause harm our bodies.
“We need to encourage our kids to love to eat real foods- honest, nutritious healthy foods. Less fast foods. Less junk foods. And they need to see us eating healthy by example.” ~Karen Salmansohn