Survey in England finds that kids are eating way too much sugar at breakfast
A survey conducted in England by Public Health England (PHE) has found that children under the age of ten are eating half of the amount of sugar they should have per day by the time they finish breakfast and three times the recommended daily amount by bedtime.
According to The Guardian, the average child studied in the National Diet and Nutrition survey “[has] the equivalent of three cubes – about 11g – of sugar before they go to school, mainly in sugary cereals, drinks and spreads,” while the recommendations are that children between the ages of four and ten should consume no more than five or six cubes of sugar a day. And if kids are taking in a total of more than three times that a day, that means that everyday they’re eating, on average, the equivalent of 15-18 cubes of sugar.
Our teeth hurt just thinking about it.
The statistic about the amount of sugar eaten at breakfast may come as a surprise for many of us who think that as long as we’re not giving our kids Smorz cereal (no disrespect, but — really, Kellogg’s?) we’re doing okay. Researchers found, however, that “eight out of 10 parents believed their children’s breakfast was healthy.” The truth is that there is added sugar in just about everything these days, even foods and drinks we think are healthy, like yogurt and granola.
To try to help parents make better decisions about what they feed their kids, PHE has started a campaign to increase awareness and has developed an app called Be Food Smart that “allows people to scan products’ barcodes to see how much sugar, saturated fat and salt they contain.” Former chancellor Greg Osborne has also recommended a sugar tax to begin in April of 2018 on drinks containing “more than 5g of sugar per 100ml,” which most often means soft drinks. This is causing the Coco-Cola corporation to make huge frowny faces in Britain’s general direction, so we’ll see if it actually goes through, but England is definitely making an effort.
“So, what about the United States,” you ask before closing your eyes and bracing for impact? Well, in June the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report saying that cereal is the “No. 5 source of added sugar in children’s diets,” which almost doesn’t sound too bad until you consider the numbers one through four are things like ice cream and cookies. Manufacturers over here have been getting a break in terms of serving sizes — though cereals are limited to no more than nine grams of sugar per serving, children often eating more than the advertised serving size. In fact, the typical serving size for sugary cereals is one-fourth to one-half what the average child eats. It’s like when you check the nutrition facts for Oreos and you see that it’s for three cookies and you’re like, “Who eats three Oreos when they’re eating Oreos? I mean, it’s an odd number for crying out loud. What kind of madman would eat an odd number of Oreos?”
Changes are a’comin’ for US food labels, however. In two years, many food serving sizes will be increased so that they are more realistic, and the amount of added sugar in a food or drink will be listed. According to the EWG, with the nine grams of sugar per serving limit, this means that “none of the 10 most advertised cereals will pass muster.”
So other than avoiding sugary cereals, what can we do to give our kids a healthier start to the day? Here are a few low-sugar breakfast suggestions:
- Fruit! (You know the song, “Fruit, fruit, good for your heart, the more you eat, the less likely you are to suffer from cardiovascular disease!)
- Smoothies! With fruit!
- Unsweetened oatmeal (good luck, there)
- Whole grain toast with peanut butter
- Low sugar cereals like Cheerios and Rice Krispies
You get the idea. And if sometimes you send your kid to school with a hearty helping of Fruit Loops because you just can’t that day and there’s screaming and you’re running late and you quit everything and they’re also freaking delicious, we won’t judge.