Sugar Lump Breakfasts – Half of Children’s Sugar Intake is at Breakfast

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Wednesday 4th January 2017

Children in England eat half of their recommended maximum sugar intake at breakfast, research published by Public Health England shockingly reveals.

This research, undertaken on behalf of the nationwide Change4Life campaign showed that in England, children on average consume more than 11 grams of sugar at breakfast, or nearly 3 sugar cubes. Taken over the course of a year this is over a thousand cubes of sugar just at breakfast time. This is over half of the recommended daily maximum for 4-6 year olds and half of the maximum for 7-10 year olds each day eaten in a single meal. The concerns are not limited to the breakfast table either. The same research found that by the end of the day children were having three times the recommended amount of sugar.

The main causes of such a figure is the popularity of sugary cereals, drinks with added sugars and thick sugary spreads. Uncertainty with what is part of a healthy breakfast also contributes to issues; in a related survey commissioned for Change4Life, it was revealed that over 8 in 10 parents of children consuming such a sugary breakfast considered it healthy.

A New Year, a New Campaign

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As a result of this, Change4Life has unveiled a new campaign, Be Food Smart, aiming to raise awareness of the hidden levels of sugar, as well as salt and saturated fat in foods. This consists of simple, eye-catching advice about how to cut the levels of salt, sugar and saturated fat in a family’s diet, as well as a list of healthier alternative recipes for meal times.

The centrepiece however, is the Be Food Smart app, available on Google Play and Apple’s App Store. A simple to use, colourful app intended for children and adults, Be Food Smart allows people to scan the barcodes of any food product and see their sugar, saturated fat and salt content both with a series of simple red-amber-green indicators and a cartoon pyramid showing how many sugar cubes your food equates to. The app also includes ways to make a game of scanning healthy food, with “mini-missions” to find healthier drink and meal options.

Challenging the Industry

This comes in the wake of growing pressure on food and drink manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar in their products. A major study published in the Lancet suggested that the effects of a sugar tax could have potentially major health benefits, reducing levels of obesity, type-2 diabetes and damaged teeth to a huge degree, with the greatest benefits reducing the number of people with obesity by 800,000.

One of the main answers to a problem of this scale is providing enough information for people to make considered decisions about the food they eat. With so many parents unaware that some foods contain so much sugar, the ability to see at a glance how healthy foods and drinks will be of great benefit to tacking the epidemic of childhood obesity. It remains to be seen how the industry and the government react to these findings.