DOES MY CHILD NEED SUGAR?
Proper nutrition is important for a child’s growth, therefore he would require an adequate amount of carbohydrates from starches as well as sugars to support rapid growth and physical activity during the early years. Health experts recommend that young children should not consume too much food and beverages which contain added sugar, knowing that sweet taste preference is an innate response.
Yet, sucrose and other forms of added sugars are often found in the child’s diet including some children's milk, yogurt drinks and fruit juice drinks. Consumption of high level of sucrose can lead to weight issues, hyperactivity and a greater preference for sweetened foods and beverages later in life. Excessive intake of sucrose has been associated with tooth decay in children.
However, not all sugars are bad for the child. The key is to take them in moderation. As a parent, one should aim to sensitise the taste buds of their children and to introduce varying taste only gradually.
HOW MUCH SUGAR DOES MY CHILD NEED?
Health Promotion Board, Singapore advises children between 6 - 12 months and 1 - 2 years old to take a maximum of 5 and 7 teaspoons of added sugar respectively daily.
For example, a bottle of cultured milk drink for toddlers can contain 3 teaspoons of sugar while some formula milk brands in Singapore can contain up to 14 teaspoons of added sugars per litre.
ARE THERE ANY HEALTH EFFECTS FROM HAVING A HIGH SUGAR INTAKE?
On a day to day basis, a high sugar intake may lead to your child being cranky and irritated when the sugar level in the body drops after a few hours of consuming foods with added sugars. In the long run, having too much of sugary foods can cause serious issues such as:
- Tooth decay with improper oral care.
- A higher risk of becoming overweight or obese, which can lead to type 2 diabetes or even heart disease.
- An increased preference for sweeter food.
- Behaviour problems such as frequent tantrums and persistent pestering. You may also find your child more likely to keep crying or asking for sugary things once he gets into the habit of eating sweets regularly.
Some experts also feel that too much sugar leads to hyperactivity symptoms.
STEPS TO REDUCE SUGAR INTAKE
It may seem impossible to completely cut out added sugar, but choosing healthier alternatives isn't as difficult as it may seem. Health Promotion Board recommends to introduce foods or beverages endorsed with the “Healthier Choice Symbol” for your child. Also, make sure high-sugar foods are not taking the place of foods with essential nutrients.
It all boils down to being a role model for your child. Leading a healthy lifestyle yourself is a good way to help your child grow up to do the same.