We all know sugar and salt are not good for kids. But just how much do we actually know about these white powders? Since I began weaning the girls just over a year a go, I started to worry about sugar and salt content. For starters, I decided not to give them anything that contained added sugar or salt. Obviously in the very beginning this meant only raw foods such as fruit or vegetables. Then I started giving them a bigger variety of food and I tried to use natural sugars that came from fruits to sweeten things. I also didn’t give them any kind of salty snack. Here’s why:
According to the NHS, children of 4-6 years old should only be eating a maximum of 19g of sugar per day. That’s only 5 teaspoons. There are no official recommendations for children under 4 but some sources suggest no more than 12g. In one chocolate cookie there is 3.5g of sugar! There is also sugar in things you wouldn’t expect such as bread, yoghurt and cereal. High sugar in our children’s diets can lead to tooth decay, heart problems and even cancer.
Babies under one should have no more than 1g of salt per day. Between the ages of 1 and 3 they should have no more than 2g of salt per day and 3g from ages 4-6. In one slice of whole meal bread there can be 0.5g of salt meaning with one sandwich your child could have already had half their salt allowance. Ham and processed meats also contain salt so if it’s a ham sandwich that’s more than likely their salt for the day. Too much salt in your child’s diet can increase their blood pressure and put them at risk of salt in later life. Children’s kidneys also have difficulties breaking down too much salt.
So with all this in mind I have come up with 5 easy and simple ways to reduce sugar and salt in your child’s diet.
Flavoured yoghurt contains an unbelievable amount of sugar, even those that are marketed at children. In one Petits Filous fromage frais there is 4.6g of sugar. That is over a third of your child’s recommended allowance for sugar! Instead, why not opt for plain Greek or natural yogurt. You can add some fruit or even a small amount of honey to your their yoghurt to sweeten it. This contains only 2.5g of sugar but it is also natural sugars occurring in the yogurt, rather than refined, added sugar.
2. Cook from scratch
This is a really simple way to cut out both sugar and salt. Instead of using convenience food that you’re not sure what it contains, make your own. Then you don’t have to add any sugar or salt. I personally got a bread maker and make my own bread. As I previously stated, the average slice of bread contains 0.5g of salt whereas I add way less salt to my own bread and I know the girls aren’t getting too much. I also make things like biscuits myself using low or no sugar recipes. They can be sealed in air tight containers or frozen and defrosted at the start of the day. It is so much better as you know your kids aren’t getting loads of sugar from their snacks!
3. Baby brands
There are many amazing brands such as Organix and Ella’s kitchen who make biscuits and crisps which are not made with salt or refined sugar. My girls personally absolutely love the organix ginger bread men and their carrot chip sticks. There are some brands which aren’t that great in terms of additives, sugar, salt etc. So make sure you read the labels!
Cereal is something that a lot of people consider fairly healthy. However one 30g bowl of Cheerios with semi skimmed milk contains 6g of sugar which is half of your child’s recommended allowance! Not to mention what cereals such as coco pops have. To combat this it’s pretty simple; read the box. Go for cereals such as weetabix, readybrek, rice crispies etc. which are low in sugar. There are also alternatives such as Alphabites cereal which is a low sugar cereal designed for young children and Cheerios have also started to sell their own low sugar version.
Preparation is key – it is so rare to find healthy snacks for kids out and about so the best thing to do is to keep your bag stocked with all manner of snacks & make packed lunches for days out.
I hope this has been a helpful post. Remember prevention is always better and if your child doesn’t get the taste for sugar and salt they’ll never know what they’re missing. I’m not saying to be mean and never let them have anything unhealthy but let’s face it, you’re being mean in the long run by letting them eat crap all the time.