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All you need to know about sugar

Kids love sweet things, so getting them to eat less sugar is tricky. Plus, with sugar hidden in so many everyday foods and drinks, it can be hard to know what's healthy and what's not.

However, it's important we do our best, because sugar isn't just bad for kids' teeth. In the long run it can also lead to more serious issues like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some cancers. But there are lots of easy and simple ways you can help reduce the amount of sugar your kids are eating.

What’s the maximum amount of sugar we can have?

It can be difficult to know how much sugar we should have a day. Here we have the guidelines for the maximum amount of sugars kids should have a day:

4- 6 years old

  • Maximum recommended added sugar intake per day: 19 grams
  • This is equal to 4 teaspoons of sugar

7-10 years old

  • Maximum recommended added sugar intake per day: 24 grams
  • This is equal to 5 teaspoons of sugar

11+ years old

  • Maximum recommended added sugar intake per day: 30 grams
  • This is equal to 6 teaspoons of sugar

Sugar watch!

But what does the maximum amount of sugar mean? It can be difficult to see how much sugar is in different foods, so we have some sweet snacks below to give you an idea of how many teaspoons of sugar are in each of them:

A can of fizzy drink has 7 teaspoons of sugar.

A sweet muffin has 5 teaspoons of sugar.

A bowl of ice cream has 8 teaspoons of sugar.

All these snacks contain more than the maximum daily amount recommended for an 8 year old.

How can we reduce the amount of sugar we eat?

The main thing you need to avoid is added sugar. This is extra sugar that manufacturers add to sweeten food. It doesn't include the natural sugars you find in dairy, fruit and veg - this sugar is OK.

Watch out for words manufacturers put on labels that actually mean added sugar:

  • Cane sugar
  • Honey
  • Brown sugar
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Corn syrup
  • Fructose
  • Sucrose
  • Glucose
  • Crystalline sucrose
  • Nectars

Try to go for products with 'no added sugar' written on the labels. You will see it listed on lots of everyday items including cereal boxes and squashes and fruit juices.

What sugar swaps can we make to eat and drink less sugar a day?

Here are some simple swaps to help your kids eat less sugar. These may seem like big changes to make all in one go so you can always try introducing the swaps gradually to ease your family into a healthier diet.

Swap #1: Sugary drinks

These make up a quarter of children's added sugar intake and should be the first thing to go from your child's daily diet. Swap fizzy juice, squashes, cordials and energy drinks for water, lower-fat milk, diet, sugar free or no added sugar drinks. You could try adding your kids' favourite fruit to water to make their very own flavoured water.

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Swap #2: Breakfast

Swap sugary cereals for plain porridge (or porridge with fruit), plain wholewheat biscuits or plain shredded wholegrain.

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Swap #3: Snacks

Swap sweets, biscuits, chocolates, cakes, muffins and pastries for fresh or tinned fruit (in juice not syrup), plain unsalted nuts, plain rice cakes or toast with low-fat spread.

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Swap #4: Puddings

Sugary puds are tasty but so are low-fat, low-sugar yoghurts, fresh or tinned fruits (in juice, not syrup), fruit salads and sugar-free jellies.

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This article was created as part of

Eat Better Feel Better