A child’s craving for sugary food is a universal phenomenon. Whichever form you present it, whether as candy, cakes, or ice cream, kids are sure to relish it. In addition to sweets, kids consume sugar in the form of packaged or processed food. This high consumption of sugar naturally makes parents worry about the health of their child.
What Are the Main Sources of Sugar in Children?
Children consume sugar through the following sources:
- Bakery and confectionery products such as cookies, plain milk chocolate, candies, cakes and pastries, buns, and jam and chocolate spread.
- Ready to eat Cereals including corn flakes, flavored oats, and Muesli.
- Beverages like commercially available fruit juice, soft drinks, and aerated drinks.
- Dairy products like flavored milk, flavored yogurt, and ice cream.
- Condiments like sauce, ketchup, and salad dressing.
The Effects of Consuming Sugar
According to a study conducted by the American Heart Association, the recommended sugar intake for children between 2-18 years of age is 6 teaspoons per day. Consuming excess sugar can have many adverse effects on your child’s health.
Tooth cavities: Cavities in the teeth are the most common effect of consuming excess sugar. When a child consumes sugar or sweet products, the bacteria in the mouth comes in contact with the sugar, producing an acid which attacks the teeth and causes a cavity. When a child sucks candies or lollipops, the exposure to the sugar is prolonged, and can cause more damage to the teeth.
Similarly, drinking soft drinks and other fruit juices also increases sugar exposure, and leads to cavity formation. If your child is consuming a lot of sweets, you should visit a family practice center near you, and get his teeth cleaned at regular intervals to prevent the onset of cavities.
Obesity: The chances of developing obesity increases if the child consumes more sugar. The calorie content in sugar is very high. Thus, if the child consumes more sugar, it results in a higher calorie intake. A high calorie intake can eventually lead to excess weight gain and obesity. An examination by a family practitioner will reveal whether your child is obese or not.
Low nutritional level: The nutrient content in sugar is very low. Thus, consuming more sugar will only increase calorie intake without providing any nutritional value. Kids usually consume sugar-laden food at the cost of nutritious food. Moreover, as the nutrient level of the body decreases, the body’s ability to ward off infection also decreases. This can speed up tooth decay caused as a result of excess sugar consumption.
If your child is consuming a lot of sugar and falls sick occasionally, then you should consult a doctor in a pediatric care unit. He will be able to access the nutritional level of the child and whether he has Type 2 diabetes based on the main symptoms of diabetes.
How to Reduce Sugar Consumption in Children
As a parent, there are many options available to reduce your child’s exposure to sugary food.
- Serve homemade food: Food that is commercially available contains a lot of sugar and salt to enhance its taste. If you cook food at home, you will have better control over the amount of sugar your family eats. This way you can drastically reduce their sugar intake.
- Carry homemade snacks and juices: When you are out for a movie or a picnic, there is a tendency to buy snacks from snack counters or vending machines. If you carry home-cooked snacks or fruit juices with you, the quantity of sugar consumption can be reduced.
- Encourage them to eat fruits: Commercially available fruit juices contain added sugar, which is not good for the health of your kid. Instead, encourage him to eat a balanced diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables. If he is not willing, you can make fruit juice at home devoid of sugar.
- Cut back on desserts: If your child is used to having dessert after every meal, it is time to break the habit. Provide them dessert only after one meal. Lunch is the ideal time to provide dessert, as the sugar consumed will be used up while playing and running around.
- Cut back on fat-free food: Most of the food items that are marketed as ‘fat-free’ have extra sugar added to enhance the taste (e.g., fat-free yogurt). If you feed this type of food to your kids, it will do more harm than good.
- Provide sugar substitutes: Sugar substitutes may not be as harmful as sugar. At the same time, sugar substitutes contain nutrients that are good for the body. Examples of sugar substitutes are honey and dates. You can include these items while making shakes and smoothies.
- Talk to your child: If your child is old enough to understand the ill effects of excess sugar consumption, you should explain these effects to him. This might prompt him to cut back on sugar laden sweets and drinks.
Healthy Alternatives to Sugar
The best way to keep your child happy and fit is to provide him healthy alternatives to sugar. Few of the healthy options are:
- Honey: Honey is a natural sweetener and has many health benefits. It is anti-microbial and has anti-inflammatory properties. Honey can be used as a spread, in smoothies, sauces, and also as a salad dressing.
- Date paste: Dates make for a healthy snack that is rich in iron. Date paste can help to satiate your child’s sweet tooth, and provide a steady source of nutrients. You can prepare date paste by blending a cup of dates with ¾ cup of water and ½ teaspoon of vanilla. Date pas
- Coconut sugar: Coconut sugar is unrefined sugar made from the sap of the flower bud of the coconut palm. Hence it is more nutritious and less harmful for kids. Coconut sugar is the best substitute for white or brown sugar. Hence, it can be used in all dishes where sugar is used. Coconut sugar is unrefined sugar made from the sap of the flower bud of the coconut palm. It is much more nutritious and less harmful than regular refined sugars. Coconut sugar is the best substitute for white or brown sugar, and can be used in all dishes where sugar is used.
Overconsumption of sugar can have seriously harmful effects on your child. Our caring team of doctors and dentists are here to provide medical and dental services for every member of your family, from babies to older adults. Call or go online today to make an appointment.