The recent Change4Life campaign highlighted that children in England are consuming too much sugar – an extra 2,800 sugar cubes per year. That’s equivalent to 312 cans of sugary cola, 469 higher-sugar yoghurts or 562 chocolate bars!
Too much sugar is bad for children’s health and has contributed to increased obesity levels. It can also lead to the build-up of harmful fat on the inside that we can’t see. This fat can cause weight gain and serious diseases like type 2 diabetes, which people are getting younger than ever before, heart disease and some cancers. Too much sugar can also cause painful tooth decay; shockingly every 10 minutes, a child (in England) has a rotten tooth removed in hospital.
We talked to parenting and lifestyle blogger ‘Hey… Is that me?*’, Cee Olaleye who has two daughters aged 7 and 10. Cee has become more aware of her children’s sugar intake and has taken action to reduce it by making simple everyday swaps and giving them healthier versions of the foods and drinks, they enjoy. She also told us about the challenges she faces when making these changes, especially when it comes to cultural foods and family members such as grandparents.
Reducing sugar intake
Cee Olaleye, said “Like most mums the health of my children is very important to me so I try to make sure that they don’t have too much sugar.
“I’m careful with breakfast cereals as I know some of them contain a lot of sugar, for example, a bowl of higher-sugar cereal can have around 3 cubes of sugar per serving. So in the morning we opt for things like porridge, scrambled eggs and other low sugar options.”
“Even with drinks, my kids mainly drink water. Occasionally I give them fruit juice, but I know it can be high in sugar so I opt for a no added sugar one which is a better alternative.
“I also encourage my girls to eat plenty of fruit and veg, smuggling them into food where necessary to get them past them!”
Cee recently downloaded the Change4Life food scanner app so she could see how much sugar was in everyday foods and drinks. Cee shares “My girls love using the Change4Life Food Scanner App and seeing the ‘traffic light’ labels brought to life. It’s a fab app that is enjoyable and informative for both children and adults alike.
“Personally, I was very surprised about the amount of sugar there is in foods that are marketed as (and that I thought were) healthy. The app has made my job of trying to reduce their sugar in-take much easier, as the girls have made up their own minds after seeing the sugar content of certain foods and they don’t want to eat some things that they now know are high in sugar.”
Dealing with sugar in cultural foods
Cee said “Food is such a huge part of our culture and it’s an important way that we connect with our African heritage. My girls love eating African snacks such as Chin Chin and Pof Pof which contain a lot of sugar but they only have them occasionally and Grandma likes to make these from scratch which means that we can reduce the sugar content compared to if these were bought in the shops which really helps.”
The influence of family members
Grandparents can play a significant role in their grandchildren’s diet and this can be challenging for some parents.
Cee said “Grandparents and aunties often give my kids sugary snacks whenever they see them, which can be tough to manage. I think that if we show grandparents how much sugar is in everyday foods and drinks they would help us to make swaps to healthier alternatives.”
Cee concludes “We owe it to our children to teach them how to live a healthy lifestyle to avoid serious diseases like diabetes and heart disease that are common with the black community.”
Change4Life is here to help you and your family cut back on sugar. Download the Change4Life Food Scanner app to see the sugar content of everyday popular items or search Change4Life for healthier swap ideas.