I spent a hectic, but fascinating, morning yesterday chatting with 15 local BBC and independent radio stations up and down the country discussing the new Change4Life Sugar Swaps campaign, which has just been launched by Public Health England.
It’s been created to help parents cut back on their family’s sugar intake and it focuses on revealing how just one or two simple swaps can make a big difference over time to a child’s total sugar intake.
The headline’s grabbing hook revealed that children in the UK have already consumed 18 years’ worth of sugar by the time they reach their 10th birthday. The radio presenters and I discussed the crisis at hand and tried to explain how we had got into a situation where, in their first decade of life, the average British child has managed to pack in an extra 2,800 teaspoons of sugar every year (that’s eight teaspoons worth every day), over and above the maximum recommended intake and, importantly, how we can help lower this in the days, weeks, months and years to come.
How more sugar = health problems
We all know that too much sugar causes painful tooth decay (every day in England alone, a child has a rotten tooth removed every 10 minutes), but perhaps we are less aware that it can also lead to the build-up of harmful fat on the inside, and up the risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes, as well as the risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer in later life.
How to make healthier swaps
Log on to the Change4Life website to read about the new campaign, and examples of simple sugar swaps. For example:
•Switching from a 750g box of sugar or honey coated breakfast cereal to a lower sugar version can cut 50 teaspoons of sugar. On a daily basis, this swap from a high-sugar breakfast cereal with three teaspoons of sugar per small 30g bowl to a low-sugar version can wipe two teaspoons off a child’s sugar intake in one fell swoop.
•Leaving a split pot yoghurt with a typical six teaspoons of sugar in the chiller cabinet and buying a lower sugar fruit yoghurt instead can cut the total sugar in half.
•Replacing a sugary juice drink with a no-added-sugar version can remove a further two teaspoons.
With national retailers, manufacturers, schools and local authorities all helping to promote this worthwhile sugar reduction campaign, I’d urge everyone to “make a swap when you next shop”.
Know the limits
Children aged between 4-6 years should have no more than 19g of free sugars (five teaspoons) a day and children aged between 7–10 years should have no more than 24g (six teaspoons daily). Children over 11 should limit free sugars to 30g a day maximum. For more information, log onto Change4Life and download the Change4Life Food Scanner app from Google play or the Apple App store to help calculate the sugar content of foods and drinks when doing your next shop.