Abuse of sugar in infant diets

The prevalence of overweight and obesity in childhood is still high today, and shows a lack of good eating habits in many families.

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There are several studies and campaigns that have been launched in order to assess the problem and sensitize the population about it. The objective would be for children and young people to adopt healthy habits that apply throughout their lives, to avoid that in their adult stage they may suffer from any of the health problems related to obesity, such as metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. From the study ALADINO 2103 (Surveillance Study of Growth, Feeding, Physical Activity, Child Development and Obesity in Spain) it is deduced that in Spain the excess weight in boys and girls of 7 and 8 is 43% (24.6% with overweight and 18.4% with obesity), figures that, although being a little lower than those obtained in 2011, are still high. The cause is usually the bad combination between sedentary lifestyle and intake of hypercaloric foods rich in fats and simple sugars, which are also poor in vitamins and minerals. 

How the habituation to sweet begins

In relation to simple sugar, say that it is a fast-absorbing carbohydrate whose main function is energy. When its presence in the diet is excessive and does not adjust to the caloric expenditure of the child and a balanced dietary context, it favors the increase of corporal fatty deposits. The first contact with sweet taste occurs when the baby first tastes breast milk, which contains lactose (milk sugar). From there, as food is incorporated into the diet, the child begins to taste new natural sources of sugar such as fruit. The problem may arise when you are tempted to add sugar to foods such as yogurt or citrus juices, among others, with the idea of ​​promoting acceptance, in addition to increasing energy intake and help in growth. This would be the beginning of the habituation to sweet, which poorly administered could give way to future problems of excess weight. This flavor produces a pleasant but momentary effect, and to a certain degree, a little addictive because, once past, the tendency is to repeat to obtain the same sensation again. On the other hand,A high intake of sugars causes an insulin spike that helps rapidly lower the blood glucose level , which in turn and often, leads to the need to take something sweet again. Therefore, in a matter of habits, better act in the early stages of life.

Sugar, more present than we think

Many drinks and foods made expressly for children are sweet, with high sugar content, which increases the likelihood of overweight and obesity in childhood. Sugary sodas, packaged juices, cocoa powder, cookies, snacks , sweets, sweetened cereals, pastries … are foods whose taste highlights its high sugar content. Even so, sometimes simple sugars are difficult to dodge because they are present in many processed foods that, a priori, because of their taste, we think they do not contain them. Therefore, it is important to read the list of ingredients of the products in the supermarket well before buying them .

Current recommendations warn that simple sugars should be reduced to less than 10% of total caloric intake. But it is difficult for children’s diet to follow this recommendation, since most advertising campaigns for food and drinks aimed at this public encourage the consumption of products rich not only in sugars, but also in fats, and / or salt. In addition, the media used also cover social networks, and the advertising reach is much broader, direct and influential.

What to do to reduce the consumption of sugar in children’s diets

With all the above, it seems difficult that children, with the high availability of food available to them, habitually consume only 10% of the calories in their daily diet in the form of “free sugars”, the maximum recommended. However, from the family and school environment can be carried out practical measures to minimize their consumption:

Look through the nutritional value table on the food label. In the “carbohydrates” section, the amount of “sugars” is specified. Consider that a spoonful of sugar dessert is 7g; therefore, if the labeling indicates that a serving of product contains 21g of sugar, it is equivalent to 3 tablespoons of sugar.

Recognize the hidden sugar in foods for daily consumption and that contribute to the contribution of sugars in the habitual diet. We can find simple sugars in the form of: glucose, sucrose, fructose, honey, dextrose, maltose, fruit juice concentrates, fructose syrups, etc. And certain products such as loaves of bread, breakfast cereals, sauces or certain snacks contain sugars, although it does not look like it at first.

Avoid the consumption of sugary drinks. There are many packaged beverages that contain added sugar, even fruit juices (in this case opt for what less simple sugars include). The option of eating a whole fresh fruit is always better.

In terms of sweet foods, better options such as biscuits or homemade cookies , in which the amount of added sugar is under our control and the food used is fresh.

Do not mask the naturally sweet flavor of fruits, juices, milk … adding sugar

The ideal is to make between 4-5 meals a day and the importance of a good breakfast, the mid-morning snack and the snack. They allow to include products of great nutritional interest such as dairy products, natural fruits, various sandwiches and some sponge cake or sweets from time to time, and facilitate the organization of a healthy diet because it fractionates the total food of the day. Better not to be excessive, to keep the appetite at dinner time.