06 Mar 2023 Article

How to limit kids sugar intake (and that of yourself)? In this article I offer practical everyday tips.

Last week we talked about how much sugar adults and children are “allowed” to eat. The short summary: preferably none at all, but if you are going to consume sugar, let it be no more than five percent of your energy intake. That comes down to:

  • 30 grams of sugar per day for an adult man;
  • 25 grams of sugar per day for an adult woman;
  • A maximum of 30 g of sugars per day for children aged 11 and over. Just like adults;
  • 19-24 grams of sugar for children between 4 and 10, depending on their weight;
  • Children under four should not eat added sugars.

But sugar is in everything. Also, in foods that we don’t consider sweet, such as ketchup and bread. How do you make sure you and your children stay close to the healthy norm? How to limit kids sugar intake? I have some practical tips for you that I hope will come in handy.

Read labels

The ingredients of a food are listed on the label in descending order: whatever is at the top is presented in the largest amount in the product. Does sugar come first? Then you know that the food mainly consists of sugar. The amount of sugar (in grams) is also always explicitly stated under the nutritional value.

NB! You can find free sugars on the label under the names sugar, cane sugar and fruit sugar. But glucose-fructose syrup and molasses are also sugars. You should also see honey, maple syrup, agave syrup or fruit concentrate as free sugars.

Be a role model yourself

Children copy the behavior of people around them and especially the behavior of their parents. So: do not eat foods with a lot of sugar yourself.

Drink water and tea and no juice or soft drinks

Water is the healthiest and most sustainable drink. Of course, your child is allowed a glass of juice now and then, but don’t make it a daily ritual.

Fruit juices contain a lot of calories. On average, a glass of juice equals about 150 calories, which can be compared to two slices of bread or two small potatoes. The sugars of the fruit juice enter the bloodstream directly and cause a jump in blood sugar. After the jump comes a rapid drop, which makes you hungry. It is always better to eat a whole piece of fruit than to drink a juice.

Soda “light” is not necessarily better than “regular” soda. Acids in soft drinks are harmful to tooth enamel. Drinking soft drinks will give you cavities. The more often the tooth enamel comes into contact with acid, the faster you get cavities. “Diet” soft drinks contain sweeteners and no calories. But sweeteners, consumed in large quantities, can be harmful to your health. Scientists are not yet clear on the consequences because sweeteners have only recently been used in the food industry. Scientists do warn that because of their small weight, children have more potential health risks than adults when they drink diet soda.

The bottom line: An occasional glass of Diet Coke or juice is OK, but do not drink it often.

Make healthy eating attractive to children

Children (and most adults) eat with their eyes. Children love it when food is colorful or has a nice shape. So, try making vegetable faces, or a rainbow, or an animal. You can find countless inspirational examples on the Internet. Children should not associate “healthy” with “not tasty”.

Take a critical look at breakfast

After sweets, pastries, ice cream and chocolate, breakfast products contain the most sugars. A 125 ml jar of fruit-flavored yogurt contains as much sugar as an ice cream. Crunchy muesli, gingerbread, sprinkles and jam also contain a lot of sugar.

Make sure your breakfast contains little to no added sugar. This will not only prevent the health problems associated with sugar consumption (cavities in the teeth and excess weight), but also prevent you from craving sugar throughout the day.

Let children eat more fruit

Fruit is healthy and is an indispensable part of a healthy diet. The advice is to eat at least two servings of fruit per day. But more is fine too. So, give your child as much fruit as they want. Fruit satisfies sweet cravings.

Peanut butter-banana sandwich is usually experienced as tasty as peanut butter-jam sandwich. You can make unsweetened yogurt taste sweet with fruit.

Get rid of the temptations

Do not keep cookies and sweets at home. Just don’t buy them. The temptation is harder to resist when you have them within your reach.

Set realistic goals

Finally, I would like to point out that it is important to set realistic goals in any nutritional strategy. You don’t have to completely eliminate sugar from your children’s lives. Just be sure to set reasonable boundaries for your children.

Life is a social event. We do not live in isolation. Shared meals are an important part of life. We also celebrate important days such as birthdays with food. So, banning your child from a birthday cake while everyone around him gets to eat it is not fun. Occasionally a piece of cake should be allowed. It just shouldn’t become a daily practice.

In one of my older articles I suggest ten practical tips to get over sugar addiction. You might want to read it if you are looking for some more advice, applicable both to kids and adults.