Oh, sugar!

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Sugar is a sticky topic when it comes to children. As a nation, we generally know that we shouldn’t consume too much of it but just how much is okay for our bodies? Or should our children not be consuming it altogether? Let’s tuck in to find out, honey!

Developing healthy tastes for life

Encouraging children to develop good food habits early on in life is vital to lay the foundation for the future of our children’s health. The first 1000 days of a child’s life are when the brain begins to grow and develop at a rapid rate. It’s also when the foundation for their lifelong health is built and when general eating habits and patterns are formed.

The early years therefore provides the optimum time to expose children to a wide range of healthy and nutritious foods, so that they can develop healthy tastes for life. So, can sugary foods ever be nutritious? It all depends on whether the sugar is naturally occurring or not.

Are naturally occurring sugars good for us?

Sugar that is found naturally in foods such as fruit, vegetables, and milk, does not need to concern us. There is no need to reduce these types of food in our diet, as they provide additional health benefits such as vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

When do we need to be concerned about sugar?

We do need to be aware of sugar which is added to our food and ‘free’ sugars:

  • Added sugar is commonly added to manufactured food and drinks such as biscuits, breakfast cereals, flavoured yoghurts, fizzy drinks, and sometimes in foods where it wouldn’t be expected too e.g., pasta sauces and condiments like ketchup.

There are a multitude of words used to describe the sugars added to food and drinks, e.g., cane sugar, sucrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, date syrup, brown rice syrup, and molasses.

  • Free sugars - these are sugars found in honey, syrups (e.g., maple, agave and golden), unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, and purees. These sugars occur naturally, where the sugar has been released from the cell wall.

Are free sugars harmful to health?

According to the British Nutrition Foundation: “Having a diet high in free sugars (more than 5-10% of total energy intake) can be harmful to health as it is associated with dental decay and may lead to excess consumption of energy (calories)”. A diet containing many foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt is unlikely to provide the balance of energy and nutrients that young children need and may contribute to them becoming overweight and having a poor nutrient intake.

There’s no guideline limit for free sugar for children under the age of 4, but the NHS recommends that this age group should avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and food with sugar added to it. It’s debatable whether this is realistic based on the current climate and food environment we live in, due to exposure to clever marketing techniques and the many food options which are high in fat, sugar, and salt available to buy so readily and cheaply.

Low sugar tastes so sweet!

At Nursery Kitchen, we recognise the importance of limiting the amount of added and free sugars children have in their diet. We understand that a high intake of sugar may lead to tooth decay (and potentially tooth extractions), but it can also lead to obesity and poor heath in later life. So, we believe it’s important to avoid sugary foods and snacks as much as possible.

We want to empower children to love the taste of good foods that do not contain added or free sugars, so that they can develop a healthy taste palate.  To support this, we encourage the consumption of milk and water as main drinks, and we do not offer squash, fruit juice or fizzy drinks on our menus.

We’ve also recently switched to serving only full-fat, plain yoghurt on our nursery menu. This is because when infants and toddlers are offered sweeter yoghurts, they’re less likely to accept heathier, plain varieties going forward.

Dessert doesn’t need to be sugary!

At Nursery Kitchen we offer a range of delicious desserts on our menu that do not contain added sugar. Our popular ‘fruit oaty crunch’, which is available with a variety of different fruits, always goes down a treat with children (and adults, too!)! Comprising of antioxidant rich and naturally sweet fruit, high fibre oats, topical coconut, and exciting spices, it makes a tasty and nutritious dessert, snack or even breakfast for children.

We have also just launched our brand-new rice puddings. They are bursting with comforting flavours from ginger, vanilla, and raisins in one rice pudding, and sweet apricots, coconut, and vanilla in the other. Both are low in saturated fat and contain no added sugar. Providing healthy and yummy food to children sets them up in the best possible way to learn, play and develop!

Learn more about what’s on our menu, here.

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