Not just a spoonful of sugar

Earlier this month the much talked about “sugar tax” came in to effect in the UK. Known by its official title the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, its aim is to help reduce the dramatically increasing levels of obesity in the population, particularly in children.

The gradual increase of ‘sugars’ in our diet is almost certainly a contributory factor to the obesity epidemic that we, as a country are facing. Recent statistics state that teenagers are consuming over three times the recommended amount of calories from free sugars. The 5-9 year old age group are also consuming three times the recommended amount (National Diet and Nutrition Survey 2008-2014). The worrying thing is that 5-9 year old are unanimously fed by their parents or guardians.

This is where we as parents need to take control. We all know how hard it can be when we are walking through the supermarket, and the kids are asking (usually constantly) for chocolate, sweets, fizzy drinks. But for their health and education we need to say no.

To understand how damaging too much sugar can be to our children’s health, I can recommend watching Jamie Oliver’s 2015 Sugar Rush. It’s not for the fainthearted, but it will make you think.

There are lots of questions as to whether the tax will stop people buying sugar laden drinks, but hopefully the coverage and awareness of sugar and soft drinks will make people think about their choices.

Fizzy Facts
• There is no nutritional value to consuming fizzy drinks. They are simply empty calories.
• Some companies such as Lucozade, Ribena and Fanta have lowered their sugar content to avoid the tax.
• Coca-Cola and Pepsi have reportedly NOT lowered their sugar content.
• The table below shows the sugar content of some well known brands;

Drink                Sugar content before tax per 100ml     Sugar content after tax per 100ml
Coca cola                                    10.6g                                                 UNCHANGED
Pepsi                                            11g                                                     UNCHANGED
Irn Bru                                         10.3g                                                          4.7g
Ribena                                         10g                                                             4.5g
Lucozade                                     13g                                                            4.5g

Just to put it in to perspective one teaspoon of sugar weighs roughly 4g. So in 100ml of Pepsi there are roughly 2 ¾ teaspoons on sugar. A can of Pepsi is 330ml making about 9 teaspoons of sugar per can! The recommended amount of sugar per day for children between 7 and 10, according to the NHS website is no more than 24g or 6 teaspoons.

The other issue with too many sugary drinks is tooth decay. When drink sugary drinks, we are basically bathing our teeth in sugar, which attacks the outer layer of the teeth if left there and then causes tooth decay. There has been a huge increase in the number of children under 18 having teeth extracted as you have probably seen reported in the media.

What are the alternatives?
• Water
• Water with a no added sugar squash (Sainsbury’s apple and blackcurrant is a good one)
• Milk

Oh crickey…..I was about to start a sentence….”in my day…..” Ah!!! What I meant to say was; when I was younger having a fizzy drink was a treat; birthdays, holidays, Christmas etc. It wasn’t the norm. Maybe for the future generation’s health we should go back to this?

The recommended maximum sugar intake obviously also includes cakes, biscuits, jam, pastries, as well as hidden sugars in foods we eat daily. It’s really eye opening to see how much sugar you, probably unknowingly, consume in one day. Try it this month. Take one day, and check the labels on every morsel you pop in your mouth! Include sauces, bread, baked beans, everything and see how much you eat in a day. Then highlight the foods you didn’t really expect to contain sugar! It’s a great lesson, if not slightly frightening. Let us know your thoughts!

See you in May! x

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