Sugar and spice…
And all things nice
By Theresa Albert, DHN, RNCP
If you really added up all the hidden sugar that a typical kid gets in a day, you would be astounded. Recently, The World Health Organization reduced their recommendations for the amount of dietary sugar, including what’s found in fruit and juice, down to about six teaspoons daily. First step for wise parents: eliminate sweetened beverages and sugary treats first and keep “good guy” sources like fruit that boast other nutrients such as fibre.
Previous common wisdom was that sugar wasn’t so bad in moderation, as long as the caloric load didn’t contribute to weight gain. Now we’ve learned that sugar in liquid form, without its original fibre and minerals, has quite a horrible effect on kids. The scary part: juice falls into that category. Even the juice that says it is 100% fruit and the “not from concentrate” stuff is suspect under this new microscope.
Juice. Even 100% pure juice has the same impact on the body as a few tablespoons of sugar or a can of soda. Many of these beverages will tell you that you are getting the “equivalent of two servings of fruit” and they are allowed to make this claim because two fruits went in. But a child’s body doesn’t think so. Their little bodies are looking for the rest of the food that would go with the fruit. Simply put, the body wants to break down the fibre to get at the fruit and use the remaining minerals to balance the sugar.
Bread. The #1 source of sugar in the North American diet is bread. Most commercial breads have a teaspoon or so of sugar per slice and we serve it to our kids two or three times per day. Whole grain breads are a good source of fibre and nutrients but, even though you think it’s better, you can hit the six teaspoon mark pretty fast.
Granola bars and cereals. Find a brand that contains less than five grams per serving and enjoy judiciously.
Bottled sauces, condiments and marinades. Even harmless kid-friendly ketchup contains about half a teaspoon of sugar per tablespoon.
1. Read all packages and choose each one wisely—if sugar is in the top four ingredients, it isn’t for you.
2. Bake your own cookies and muffins using less sugar and more whole foods like carrots, zucchini, sweet potatoes and bananas. They are sweet and come with other nutrients, as well as the important mitigating fibre.
3. Try adding some protein and good fat to a higher sugar moment. A small piece of cheese or a few nuts can help mitigate the blood sugar impact of a cookie.
4. Eliminate juice (see recipe for an alternative). Water or milk are the best beverages.
Theresa Albert is a corporate food communications consultant, motivational speaker and private personal nutritionist. She regularly appeared on CBC’s Steven and Chris for lifestyle and health food reports.