Q: Should I serve my child sugar? What is the issue?

We know that as a nation obesity is on the rise, including our youngest children and oral health issues are also on the rise.

  • In 2017 Public Health England reported 12% of 3 year olds in England as having visible tooth decay, and
  • In 2021 the National Child Measurement Programme classified 10% of children in reception to be obese.

Not only this but we know that we are helping our children build habits of a lifetime.

Q: Should you ever include sugar in a child’s diet?

The short answer is yes – small amounts of sugar in moderation can be included in children’s diets.  We do want children to enjoy their food, it’s all about balance and moderation.

It is always important to serve children nutritiously dense foods; those that are both healthy and nutritious but it is vital to note that a healthy diet for young children (and particularly children under 2 years) is different from that of older children and adults – they need more fat in their diet, and less fibre, to ensure that they have sufficient intakes of calories, fat and nutrients to meet their relatively high needs. Therefore, the diet shown by the Eatwell plate, which is developed for children over five years and adults, is not appropriate.

Puddings can provide a really important part of children’s diets – milk-based puddings provide a portion of dairy foods (providing calcium, zinc and protein), and desserts made with flour will provide carbohydrate, energy and iron. Therefore we do recommend that desserts are provided for children with main meals each day. Desserts can be varied to include a mixture of hot fruit-based desserts, milk-based puddings, yoghurt/fromage frais, cakes and biscuits and cold desserts such as fruit salad across the week, so that children get a good variety. Cakes and puddings can include fruit or vegetables to sweeten them, and so reduce or even eliminate the need for sugar to be added.

Q: What can you serve instead of sugary based foods?

  1. Offer naturally sweet foods: berries, bananas, apples, and oranges can provide a sweet taste along with valuable nutrients.
  2. Focus on whole foods: Provide a variety of whole foods, such as vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy products, which offer essential nutrients and are less processed than sugary treats.
  3. Choose healthier sweeteners: If you need to add sweetness to a dish or beverage, consider using healthier alternatives like mashed bananas, unsweetened applesauce.
  4. Encourage water as the main drink: Rather than sugary drinks like juice or squash, encourage your child to drink water throughout the day. You can also offer cows milk after your child’s first birthday.

Q: Is there anything else I can do?

Many cultures use food as part of a celebration and eating together is an important part of supporting our well-being.  Again, the message here is everything in moderation but also try to be mindful of trying to find other, or additional, ways to celebrate rather than relying on sugary treats.

  • Could you decorate the room with your child?
  • Make crafts with the children; these could even be themed
  • Dress-up
  • Make small adaptations to make the meal healthier?
  • Sing songs, play games or other activities…. there are so many ways to celebrate and have fun

What do we do at the nursery?

  • We have developed a menu so that our desserts are either whole sweet fruits or puddings baked with vegetables (beetroot or carrots) or naturally sweet fruit.
  • The children are always offered water to drink throughout the day; and with some meals, milk.

For More Information:

Food groups and the Eatwell Guide – Food and nutrition for good health – CCEA – GCSE Home Economics: Food and Nutrition (CCEA) Revision – BBC Bitesize

Our Homecooked Nutritional Meals | Teepee Day Nursery