To mark the week, Nathalie Gudgeon, a Nutritional Therapist and CNHC Local Champion, has written this blog post for us. Nathalie, who lives in Yorkshire with her husband and two children, is also a member of BANT and IFM, and takes a functional approach to her practice with a special interest in nutrigenomics and children’s nutrition:
Sugar awareness is something I am passionate about promoting both in my practice and at home for my own family. Many parents attend my clinic feeling frustrated with the challenges of minimising sugar in their child’s diet. It seems every day there is an opportunity for cake, sweets and sugary snacks.
Sugar that is consumed in excess and therefore not utilised is linked to obesity, diabetes, inflammation and cardiovascular disease. In children, sugar excess may account for concentration difficulties, sleep problems, hyperactivity and digestive upset.
Understandably, the first instinct for parents is to focus on calories, as opposed to sugar content. Low calorie foods can still be very high in sugar and high calorie foods can be low in sugar, yet high in healthy fats and protein. For example, 14g serving of raisins has around 9.5g of sugar; yet is under 50 calories. Compare this to 1 tbsp of almond butter which has 101 calories but less than 1g of sugar. It’s very important to differentiate between “good” and “bad” fats. Good or “super fats” are typically higher in calories but these important foods should not be discouraged simply because of their calorie content. Instead they should be promoted in our children’s diets, specifically omega 3 rich fats which are important for concentration and brain development.
My advice to parents is not to fixate on calories but rather look for foods that contain less than 5g of sugar per 100g. Take a look at your kid’s cereal bars or fruit yogurts and you may see that they contain as high as 15g of sugar for a 30g serving. The recommendation is for children aged 7-10 years to eat no more than 24g of free sugar in one day! For adults it is 30g per day.
Many parents ask me frequently, how can I stop them asking for food constantly? The answer lies with protein rich foods at each meal and snack as this helps to regulate sugar intake. Protein slows the release of sugar into the blood stream, as can choosing complex rather than refined carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates such as fruit with skin, root vegetables and wholegrains take longer to break down in the digestive system so there is a slower release of sugar into the bloodstream. This avoids highs and lows, with a more even blood sugar level helping to avoid cravings and melt downs!
With each meal and snack, consider how you can provide a balance of macronutrients:
- Protein (meat, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds)
- Good fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds)
- Complex carbs (brown rice, root/starchy vegetables, wholegrain breads and pastas, legumes)
- A good level of un-starchy vegetables with each meal is great if you can achieve this as a part of the daily plate.
Here are some examples of how to put this into practice:
- Two scrambled eggs on 1 slice wholegrain toast with 1 tsp butter with baby tomatoes
- Whole grain oat porridge with full fat milk or dairy free milk, with 1 tbsp cashew butter.
- Chicken with brown rice pasta, steamed vegetables with pesto sauce or olive oil
- Fish goujons with sweet potato and salad
- Falafels, hummus dip, carrot sticks and baked sweet potato chips.
Use snack time as a means of boosting your child’s nutrition. Here are some good snack suggestions that are around 100-150 calories without the sugar fix:
- 20g of cheddar cheese chunks with 10 grapes (this is one serving of fruit)
- 2 tbsp of hummus or guacamole dip with chopped vegetable sticks (carrot, pepper, celery)
- 1 tbsp of almond butter/peanut butter on 1 rough oatcake or half a sliced apple
- 20g of good quality raw dark chocolate (70-85%) with a satsuma
- 1 x 125ml natural yogurt pot/coconut yogurt with 1 tsp of sunflower seeds and ½ cup of berries
- ½ small banana with 200ml of whole milk/dairy free milk
- 2 dark chocolate brazils and 1 tsp of goji berries
- Cold meat balls/slice of turkey/small sausage with chopped carrot sticks
- Sliced boiled egg with ½ orange
- 1 chocolate energy ball (see the recipe below).
I’ll leave you with one of my own recipes for a favourite kid’s (and adults!) treat - Chocolate Energy Balls!