How much sugar does a child need?

I have often been called a ‘mean mother’ for denying Winston sugary treats – mostly by elderly ladies, and my in-laws (awkward), but it is something I do not feel guilty about. A kill joy perhaps? but not guilty. In fact, it is something that I feel incredibly passionate about. Sugar can contribute to nutrient deficiencies by providing energy without providing nutrients. It is so important that young children eat lots of nutrient dense foods, rather than a quick sugary fix. Plus, sugar is also the number one immune depressor.


My Mum’s motto regarding sugar has always been: ‘The more children have it, the more they want it and the less willing they are to eat other things’ and I am in complete agreement. On another note – how frightful is it when you realise how sensible your parents are?

I am astounded at how young Winston was when he started recognising the rustle of a wrapper, the shimmer of chocolate bars and the look of cake, juice, biscuits and sugary treats. Children will not be fooled, and suddenly; sitting diagonally to him in the car doesn’t work quite so well – he can see everything!

Yes – he is allowed sweets at his grandparents house, yes – he has drank juice and fizzy drinks more than once in the same day, yes – he has eaten (on many occasions) cake, ice-cream, biscuits and chocolate…and he blumming loves them all. Before having Winston I assumed that most popular snacks aimed at babies would definitely be sugar free, and I also assumed that people wouldn’t feed your baby chocolate brownies when your back is turned for one second.

Me: “Oh yes – thank you, that is lovely. I think he likes it”…whilst trying to scrape it out of his mouth. He’d only started weaning the week before.

Take Heinz Rusks as an example: aimed at babies from 4+ months with added vitamins – the second ingredient is sugar. There are far, far better things that a baby could be eating. Babies are so prone to illness within the first couple of years, so to me, it seems imperative that they don’t get hooked on sugar and suppress their developing immunity so early in life.

I have always been one of those geeky label readers. Sometimes I forget that I’m meant to be doing the food shop; as I get carried away with finding out what’s in everything. I even irritate myself. If you’re unsure how to read a food label – ingredients are listed in order of the percentage content – high to low.

Through a bit of research – it seems that nutritionists recommend that children have a sugary treat once a week. A sugary treat meaning:

– one solitary digestive biscuit

– a cup of squash or fruit juice

– a portion of sugary cereal

– a pack of mini iced gems

– a few sweets

– yoghurt coated raisins

– a cereal bar

– a  fromage frais

…a whopping ONCE A WEEK.

I have considered buying in a few sugary treats to keep in the house but I’ve found that it hasn’t been necessary. Biscuits are on offer at play group, he sees his grandparents a few times a month, we might get an ice-cream at the park, we sometimes bake together, a kind lady in town might give him some chocolate or we might be going to a wedding, party etc…and this happens every week; if not more. Not having them in the house means that when we go out – I can let him eat whatever is on offer. I’ve come to realise there is no point trying to get him to eat tomatoes (that he loves) when he can sniff a biscuit in the vicinity.

BerriesI am very happy to continue giving my poor child (sorry Winston): houmous, cous cous (recent discovery and takes 1 min), plain rice cakes, water, berries, Nak’d bars, bananas, plain yoghurt, raisins, oat cakes, tomatoes and cucumber for snacks…and even happier to accept the title of being a ‘mean mother’. What an honour!

Although, I must confess I am pretty excited for a couple of years time when we can have DVD and treat nights together. There is nothing quite like a sweet treat and surely popcorn can be considered healthy?

So…in answer to my initial question: “How much sugar does a child need?” – the answer is, very little; if at all.

E xx

p.s. How exciting that Downton Abbey is starting up again this weekend? x


Leave a comment

  1. Lou Johnson
    23rd September 2013 / 10:45 am

    So true Esther! I wish I hadn’t have given Harry so many sweet things. I am paying the price now! Next time, I will be more mean hee hee! xx

  2. John
    24th September 2013 / 9:55 am

    great post Pest!

  3. 26th September 2013 / 9:38 am

    I feel exactly the same way and have always tried to limit the amount of sugar Cherry has in her diet. We were trying to Google how much sugar kids should be having the other day actually as we suddenly realised that she was probably getting too much in the form of dried fruit too, my OH had been giving her loads without realising how full of sugar it is. It was so hard to find an answer though so that’s crazy that it’s recommended they only have one sweet treat a week! Now she’s a bit older I am a bit more relaxed and I do occasionally let her have chocolate and we do make cakes at home but I’ve changed her snacks to savoury things and I’ve already noticed a difference in her not asking for sweet things all day. It is very much a problem that the more sweet stuff you eat, the more you crave. The only tricky part is when I want to scoff a chocolate bar in the day without her realising, like you say they notice as soon as they here that ruffling of the wrapper! x

  4. 26th September 2013 / 9:05 pm

    I know! It’s quite shocking and confusing…particularly when items are marketed as the ‘healthy option’. Manufacturers must know how additive sugar is and play on it. That is brilliant that Cherry has stopped asking for sweet things already – I’m sure it will be making a difference. Sometimes I wish I could appear the ‘fun one’ that gives him treats but I’ve decided it will have to be his grandparents – not me! xx

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