Was it just us or was December a crazy month long carousel of treats? I’ve always been super relaxed about the girls eating – yes, even sugar, but by the end of last month, their eating was outta control. Even by lax Christmas standards.
New Year, New Rules
On New Year’s Eve, like many parents I imagine, we vowed to do better.
Our main concern? That they eat too much sugar and not enough veg. So, we decided that we’d make a really big effort to reduce our daily sugar consumption and make sure we’re all eating the rainbow (fruit & veg, not Skittles. Obvs).
Knowledge is Power
To get up to speed I headed over to the NHS website to check out the current thinking on kids’ nutrition.
The recommended “free” sugar limit for 4 – 6 year olds is 19g; 24g for 7 – 10 year olds; and 30g for adults.
We all know about getting 5 a day. But I didn’t realise that nuts, seeds and beans count. Also, when you’re talking portions it’s 80g for fruit & veg; 30g for nuts and dried fruit; and a small 150ml glass of unsweetened juice or smoothie counts too. I found this information really helpful.
The girls love nuts and pumpkin seeds and adore smoothies and cloudy apple juice. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad after all.
We were at Center Parcs for New Year. As hunger struck at the pool one morning, we wandered over to Starbucks to get a drink and snack. The Big One plumped for a chocolate twist. As bakery goods go, I always thought pastries were the least bad option from the counter.
The Starbucks chocolate twist contains 16g of sugar, 275 calories and 12g of fat. If you’re an adult this is quite a dent in your recommended daily sugar allowance (about half); if you’re a child the same age as my daughters it’s just 3g shy of your entire day’s allowance. This really shocked me.
As a one-off treat, this is fine. But as part of a sugar filled diet alongside sweets, juice, biscuits, petit filous yoghurts and pudding, it’s a nightmare.
Worse still, there were no healthy options on offer. No fruit, no nuts, no plain or whole foods. No healthy alternative. What an oversight, Starbucks. How very unwoke.
The Bigger Picture
It got me thinking about nutrition as a bigger picture, especially when eating out. And how much we’ve been overlooking our daughters’ health in the name of being laid-back.
It’s possible to make better choices when you know what you’re looking for. I could’ve bought The Big One a sandwich (less than 4g of sugar) or a plain croissant (5g of sugar) at Starbucks – both contain a lot less sugar than the twist. I just didn’t think about it. And that’s the problem isn’t it. Not thinking. And not having obviously healthy choices available.
At least we know what to do in future. And yes, it probably does mean taking our own snacks and side stepping Starbucks.
Not So Innocent For Kids
The biggest shocker was later in the week, when we were having another quick snack after running around the park. This time, the husband grabbed a couple of kids Innocent smoothies (pineapple, apple and carrot). As I casually checked the label, my jaw hit the table: 18g of sugar per carton. 95% of their sugar allowance for the day in one small smoothie hit. Unbelievable.
And although it’s appears healthy, because a carton is one of your 5-a-day, I’ve done some research and those 18g are classed as free sugar, so count against your sugar allowance.
Face | Palm
If I’m honest, I feel like an idiot. I was all over healthy eating when I was pregnant and when they were newly weaning babies. I had all the books and read all of the advice. Things have slipped a lot.
To Ban or Not To Ban
Will I ban smoothies when we’re out? Yes. But also no. I don’t believe in outright banning forever. And I haven’t put us all on a diet. The girls are growing after all. But for now as we recalibrate, cartons of smoothie are off the menu and shopping list. Water, milk or rooibos tea for the time-being.
How To Eat Out Better
As we eat out a lot, I’m going to start researching the places that consider children’s nutritional needs seriously whilst embracing the joy of sociable family eating out.
My question right now – can we still have it all AND be healthy when eating out in Sussex? Watch this space!
It’s Not Too Late
I’m lucky. There’s time to make meaningful change and put this down to a bit of a parental blip. I’m relieved that we’ve got time to change habits now while they’re still little. And although they’re grumpy that we’re saying no a lot more, they’re overwhelmingly open minded and trust that we’ve got their best interests at heart. Kids are awesome.
This time last week, I felt like a prize plum. Now, I’m fired up. Who doesn’t love a new year challenge?
Do you keep a close eye on what your children are eating? Are you mindful of their sugar intake? Do you have food based intentions or resolutions for the year ahead? Come and tell me all in the comments below.