How much sugar is your child eating?

It may be summer, but according to figures from Public Health England (PHE), children living in England have already eaten more than a year’s worth of sugar.

According to the health agency, children are on track to eat around 4,800 cubes of sugar by the end of this year, which is more than double the maximum recommendation. That’s because, while the advice for children aged between four and 10 is to eat no more than five or six cubes of sugar a day, many are eating 13 a day on average.

The problem with eating too much sugar is that it can lead to weight gain, obesity and tooth decay, suggest PHE experts. A third of children leave primary school overweight or obese, they say, while around a quarter of five-year-olds have painful tooth decay. Meanwhile if your child is above a healthy weight, they’re more likely to stay that way when they become adults. And this, says the agency, can increase their risk of health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

Top sugar sources

According to PHE, some of the biggest main contributors of free sugars to children’s diets are sugary soft drinks. These alone contribute more sugar to children’s diets than ice cream and puddings combined. The top 10 sources of sugar in children’s diets are:

  • Sugary soft drinks including squashes, sugar-sweetened juice drinks, energy drinks, cola and other fizzy drinks (10 per cent)
  • Buns, cakes, pastries and fruit pies (10 per cent)
  • Table sugar, preserves and sweet spreads (nine per cent)
  • Biscuits (nine per cent)
  • Breakfast cereals (eight per cent)
  • Chocolate (seven per cent)
  • Sweets (seven per cent)
  • Yoghurt, fromage frais and other dairy desserts (six per cent)
  • Ice cream (five per cent)
  • Puddings (four per cent)

Fruit juice and smoothies also add sugar to children’s diets. But while they may be a healthier alternative to sugary soft drinks, PHE experts are recommending children have no more than 150ml a day (this also counts as one of their 5 A Day).

Reducing sugar intake

PHE’s Change4Life campaign is urging parents to make some simple changes to their children’s diet to reduce their sugar intake for the rest of the year (and beyond). Here’s what you can do:

  • Swap sugary drinks for plain water, lower-fat plain milks, sugar-free or no-added-sugar drinks (visit the Change4Life website for more tips).
  • Make sure they only have a total of 150ml of juice and smoothies combined each day, and encourage them to have these drinks with meals instead of on their own.
  • Cut back on sugary snacks – swap cakes, biscuits, chocolate and sweets for fruit, plain rice cakes, toast, fruit teacakes, malted loaf or bagels with lower-fat spread (find out more easy ways to be food smart).

You can also ask your local Careway pharmacist for tips on making your family’s diet healthier as well as advice on preventing your child developing tooth decay.

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.