By Dr Deb Levy

A spoonful of sugar may make the medicine go down, but what if your children are eating too much of the white stuff? Dr Deb Levy, holistic paediatrician, shares her advice on how to cut down on sugar without your children feeling like they’re missing out.

If you’re concerned about the amount of sugar your child is eating, then you’re right to worry. According to a study from researchers at the University of Wollongong and University of Sydney, more than half of young Australians are consuming too much sugar. It’s estimated, on average, children imbibe around 81g of sugar every day. That’s around 19 teaspoons of sugar added to your child’s diet.

Recent research also estimates that 74% of Australian children, aged 2-12 years, would prefer to eat fast food or snack throughout the day, or have soft drinks if left to their own choice.* The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends children should have less than three to six teaspoons of sugar a day. When you consider a can of fizzy drink can have around nine teaspoons, it’s easy to see how quickly children can go over the advised limit.

Tips on how to cut down

It’s important to understand the difference between natural sugars and added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars are present in foods, such as fruit and dairy and are not considered unhealthy. Added sugars on the other hand, are just that, added to foods to make them taste sweeter, but they have no nutritional value to your health.

Learn how to read labels correctly and identify all those words that ultimately mean sugar. Keep in mind that labels won’t put sugar levels in a teaspoon measurement, instead the amount is listed in grams. So, remember that 1 teaspoon is about 4 grams of sugar. That way you can be aware of how many grams of sugar your child may be consuming.

Sugar should add up to just 10 per cent of the energy you get from food each day. By focusing on a balanced diet, based on fresh fruit, vegetables and lean meats, you’ll find that your children’s diet is much cleaner.

  1. Opt for water over juice

A glass of fruit juice can have up to 25g of sugar added. Try and opt for water as the first choice or dilute fruit juices with sparkling water. Adding fruits to your water, such as lemon, orange or strawberries, can also help boost the water with flavour and is a great way to introduce new fruits to your kids.

  1. Halve the ingredients

Baking at home is a great way to control the ingredients in your child’s meals, as well as getting them in the kitchen! You can halve the recommended sugar serving in most recipes, without any difference to the taste.

  1. Substitute

If your children prefer a sweeter breakfast, try adding a teaspoon of honey to a bowl of fruit or to wholegrain cereal. It can be a good addition to your child’s daily diet, especially as you don’t need much to pack a punch (remember, children under the age of 2 shouldn’t be given honey).

  1. Get creative

Ice blocks are a great treat, but they can be packed full of sugar. Try making your own, using fruit and sparkling water. They can be super easy to make, so get your children to help and they won’t be able to wait until their treats are frozen and ready for eating. This is also a great way to ensure your fussy eaters are getting some of their fruit servings into their diet.

Dr Deb Levy is a consultant pediatrician with a unique holistic approach to children’s health and wellness. Dr Levy is committed to providing the highest quality of paediatric care for families who want a holistic approach to health and a strong therapeutic relationship with their doctor.

For more information, visit www.blackmores.com.au/superkids

*The study conducted by YouGov Galaxy Research, polled a representative sample of 1,000 Australians, with respondents with children aged between 2-12 years answering questions regarding children’s health, nutrition and wellbeing