India is fast catching up on childhood obesity. As a nation, we connect every occasion to something sweet. Be it a birthday, anniversary, child related ceremony, child’s graduation, or festivals etc., sweets are an unsaid part of the menu, like an emotional attachment. Most parents don’t even know how much sugar goes into their child’s daily diet. Read on to discover the frightening facts of sugar and strategies to tackle the sweet tooth in each one of us.
Did you know??
- Most products claiming to be “low fat” are hidden with enormous amounts of sugar and we fall prey to those marketing gimmicks. Sugar lurks in most processed foods, ketchup, breakfast cereals, bread, ready to eat foods, and the so called “health drinks”.
- Nutrition labels might not always explicitly read “sugar”. Instead of words like fructose, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), agave nectar, evaporated cane juice, honey, brown sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice concentrates, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, syrup and sucrose are the concealed names with which sugar is labelled in a product. Hopefully, after reading this, you will be able to spot the culprits.
- Sugar provides energy to the bad bacteria in the mouth, leading to decaying or cavity filled teeth making it necessary to have frequent visits to the dentist. Another fact worth remembering is that the child’s permanent set of teeth are already formed and lies within the gums. It just emerges later on. So for all the parents out there thinking, “Let the milk tooth fall off, I will take care of my child’s dental health once his permanent teeth come out”, you are highly mistaken.
- In fact, sugar does not even have a place in the food pyramid. This clearly tells you that sugar offers absolutely NO HEALTH BENEFITS. It’s just empty calories with no nutritional significance. All the more reason why we should eliminate it from our child’s and our diet! In addition to just sugar, children also ingest artificial flavour and colours in their lolly-pops, cake icings, jellies. Make sure not to exceed 2-3 tsp of sugar in your child’s diet, i.e., 15 g per day.
- Sugar is also the leading contributor to childhood obesity and insulin resistance, leading to type 2 diabetes among children! It affects behaviour and learning. Since sugar provides pure energy, it can lead to nutrient deficiencies which inhibit adequate growth and concentration. Sugar overload will prevent the taste buds from maturing and children will be more hesitant to try other tastes, such as bitter or sour.
- Any form of sugar is harmful. Jaggery, palm sugar, honey, might claim to have health and weight loss benefits, which are not entirely true since it still provides calories and very little iron or antioxidants. While it’s alright to substitute these in place of sugar, don’t exceed the recommended intake amounts – 15g per day.
“Satisfying the Sweet Tooth” hacks
While it’s very difficult to eliminate sugar from our diet overnight, here are a few tips for sugar de-addiction.
- Opt for natural sources of sugar like fruits and dried fruits. Whenever your child craves for sugar, give him raisins, prunes, dates, or other fresh fruits that are naturally sweet. Make porridges with apple puree for the sweetness.
- DO NOT introduce sugar to the child while weaning. Sugar is not an essential part of any child’s diet. Make sure that there is absolutely no added sugar in your child’s diet until he is one year. But because it’s impossible to continue bringing him up the same way, we need to limit the frequency and quantity of sweets given to him and let his taste buds develop naturally. He will slowly learn to accept all tastes and will be willing to try a variety of foods.
- While introducing cow’s milk to the child, make sure it is plain white milk and no added sugar or malted beverages. Let the child’s taste buds get accustomed to naturally tasting milk.
- Fresh fruit juices made at home without added sugar, and consumed immediately are healthier than packaged juices, which contains way more sugar than your child’s body can process.
- Switch to dark. Dark chocolate in place of milk or white chocolate is certainly a healthier option, but make sure to go stingy with the portion sizes.
So with this information in mind, let’s make our homes free from the sugar monster and preserve the beautiful white toothed smile on our children’s faces!