• Melissa Genee, RD

Sugar and Healthy Eating

Sugar, Sugar, Sugar

Sugar is a type of carbohydrate that adds sweetness to foods and drinks. When consumed in large amounts, too much sugar can become a problem.

Nutrition: High sugar foods and drinks can replace more nutritious foods, which can result in the body not getting enough vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients. If a child chooses a sugar sweetened pop instead of milk, they may not be getting enough calcium and vitamin D.

Dental Cavities: Sugar is one of the main causes of dental cavities. Poor oral hygiene and frequent meals and snacks are also contributing factors to dental cavities.

Behaviour: Sugar is often blamed for behavioural problems and hyperactivity in children, however, current research does not indicate that sugar affects behaviour or cognitive performance.

Types of Sugar

There are many types of sugar, including:

- White sugar

- Brown sugar

- Raw sugar

- Maple syrup

- Corn syrup

- Honey

- Agave

Sugar can be added to foods and drinks (like in cereals, fruit drinks and pop) or sugar can occur naturally (like in fruit, vegetables and milk). All sugars, including added sugars and naturally occurring sugars, contain the same amount of energy (in the form of calories) and are digested the same way. That is to say that raw sugar and honey are NOT more nutritious than white sugar. However, foods and drinks that contain naturally occurring sugars (fruit and milk) are also full of important vitamins and minerals that are part of a healthy diet.

Sugar Recommendations

Canada's Food Guide recommends limiting foods and drinks that are high in sugar. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that people have no more than 10% of their total energy intake from added sugars. For a child 4-8 years old, that is approximately 8 teaspoons (or 32 grams) of added sugar daily.

Healthy Food and Drink Alternatives

Use this guide to help offer lower sugar alternatives to your child.

Can Sugar Be Part of a Healthy Diet?

Sugar can be part of a healthy diet for your child. Children can enjoy foods and drinks containing sugar in small amounts as a "treat" once in a while.

Use these tips to help your child eat less sugar:

  • Offer small portions of high sugar foods along with healthy foods. For example, try chocolate pudding as a dip for bananas or top a small amount of ice cream with fruit.

  • Offer sparkling juice (a small amount of juice with soda water) as an alternative to soft drinks and other sugary drinks.

  • Mix chocolate milk and white milk in equal portions.

  • For hot summer days, make frozen treats using fruit, vegetables, yogurt, 100% fruit juice. Click HERE for some frozen treat ideas.

  • Make fruit fun by putting them on kebabs or making faces out of them!

  • Make homemade baked good and desserts with less sugar. Try experimenting with reducing the amount of sugar in a recipe. Use fruits such as raisins, dates and bananas instead of sugar. Add extracts (vanilla, almond, orange or lemon) or spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves) to increase flavor and natural sweetness of your baked goods.

  • Avoid using candy or sweets as a reward for good behaviour.


Source: Alberta Health Services, Dietitians of Canada, UnlockFood.ca

For more information, visit www.unlockfood.ca

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