Britain - nay the world is on the verge of demonising vital, healthy foods that kids need in their diets. Fruit, fruit juice and milk are not the enemy when it comes to the sugar debate. If we're not careful Mum's are going miss the point altogether and will dump these nutrient packed foods in the bin along with the cola, sweets and chocolate.
Today sees the Government's Chief Obesity Advisor recommending that parents only serve water at meal times and ban fizzy drinks and fruit juice from the dinner table. This advice comes in advance of two reports which are expected to reduce the recommended daily allowance for calories from sugar along with laying out at an action plan to make it easier to avoid the white stuff through, smaller portions, clearer labelling and tougher advertising regulations.
There's merit in all of these steps, but I think we are losing our focus on the real problem here leaving busy parents completely confused and baffled about what they should or shouldn't be feeding their kids. We must separate added and naturally occurring sugar.
- To keep things simple- sugar provides sweetness and calories to food- no vitamins, no minerals and no other nutritional benefit. We are all eating too much sugar so there clearly is a link between it and obesity. The big wins are found by cutting out the ADDED SUGAR-
- The biggest sugar culprits for are sugary soft drinks, confectionery, biscuits, cakes and chocolate. The sugar is added to these foods to make them taste good- it's these foods we need to cut down on.
- Some foods like ketchup, baked beans or breakfast cereals contain "hidden sugar"- sugar that's added for flavour where you might not necessarily expect to find it. - Don't start worrying about these foods until you've sorted out your soft drinks and sweet treats.
- Other foods contain naturally occurring sugar like fruit, fruit juice, milk and dairy product, potatoes, bread and grains- The sugar in these foods comes along with a whole host of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. They are really are not the enemy in the anti- sugar debate.
- Kids need fruit and dairy foods, its fine for them to have one glass of fruit juice a day- if they want more juice to drink- dilute it like squash
We're all waiting for the food industry and legislators to reformulate sweet foods, label them clearly and sort out portions sizes. In the meantime my advice to Mums is to limit sweet treats to once or twice a week and get the whole family involved in cutting sugar intake overall - gradually.