Many parents trying to avoid giving their children sugary treats reach for a wholesome, fruit-flavoured yoghurt as an alternative. But new research suggests that it might not always be such a healthy choice.
Researchers from the University of Leeds and University of Surrey who analysed more than 900 yoghurts, found that just 2% of those aimed at children could be classed as low in sugar. Children’s yoghurts typically contained 10.8g per 100g, the equivalent of more than two sugar cubes, the study found.
The NHS recommends that children aged four to six years old have no more than 19g of sugar, or five sugar cubes a day; children aged seven to 10 years old should consume less than 24g daily.
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Dr Barbara Fielding, study co-author from the University of Surrey, said: “In the UK, on average, children eat more yoghurt than adults, with children under three years old eating the most. It can be a great source of protein, calcium, and vitamin B12.
“However, we found that in many of the yoghurt products marketed towards children, a single serving could contain close to half of a child’s recommended daily maximum sugar intake.”
The team analysed the nutritional content of 921 yoghurts available at five major UK supermarkets in October to November 2016. As well as analysing children’s yoghurts, the researchers found - in general - adult’s organic yoghurts typically had 13.1g of sugar per 100g, the highest content of all eight categories of the food, while natural or Greek varieties had the lowest at around 5g.
Public Health England (PHE) has challenged the food industry to reduce the sugar content of yoghurts and fromage frais, along with other products, by 20% by 2020. A progress report published in May 2018 shows sugar content in yoghurts was reduced by 6% in the first year, making it the only food category to exceed the initial 5% target.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “Based on more recent data than in this study, we have seen positive steps – yoghurt and fromage frais was the only category to exceed the first year sugar reduction ambition of 5% – and hope to see further progress when we publish our next report in 2019.”
So what yoghurts should I give my kids?
NHS Change4Life advises parents to give children plain yoghurt. Dr Megan Rossi, a consultant dietician and nutritionist at Kings College London and BDA spokesperson says parents shouldn’t be afraid of giving their children yoghurt, as there is evidence to show it can be good for weight maintenance and heart health. But she advises parents not to go for yoghurts that have more than 5g of sugar per 100g. “Anything above 5g suggests they’ve added extra sugars in it,” she told HuffPost UK.
“Go for a natural or Greek yoghurt and add in a little bit of honey yourself, as that way you can monitor the sugar going in rather than it being whole teaspoons. Adding fruit is great too because it has natural-free sugars, which contain fibre.”