Healthy Snacks for Children: The Battle of Hidden Sugars in Food
With the global frown on all things sugary, we are more aware of the importance of healthy snacks for children than ever before. We send our little ones off to school with lunch boxes packed from home rather than tuck shop money, right?
Of course, we do. No self-respecting Mum wants to exacerbate the growing obesity epidemic for starters. But that’s not the only mitigating factor. The percentage of children diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is growing, but if often manageable by teaching our families to understand the value of healthy food.
So, let’s see how well we’re actually doing.
What the Packaging Doesn’t Tell You
Just when we thought we’ve got this and we’re sending our children off to school with energy bars and a yoghurt smoothie rather than a Coke, we’re told we’ve been fooled! The cold hard fact is that our children are chronically likely to consume added sugar from all too familiar products; from savoury spreads and crackers to fruit bars and low-fat products, which are usually laden with the rapidly absorbed form of sugar called fructose.
Sadly, when it comes to healthy snacks for children, even those who take the time and trouble to read the packaging with an eye out for sugar content, often miss the many names that may sound harmless but are just another way of saying, ‘so we sneaked the sugar in any way’ – some obvious, some not.
We’ve left out those that have the word ‘sugar’ after them obviously, even if there are great words in front of them like beet, demerara, palm, coconut or date – we kid you not, and those that similarly say ‘syrup’ of any kind afterwards. While we know about glucose, fructose, and sucrose when thinking of healthy snacks for children, it’s guaranteed we won’t have heard of some of the following:
Agave nectar, barley malt, buttered syrup, caramel, cane juice (evaporated/ hydrated’ crystals), honey, maltol, maltodextrin, mannose, molasses, muscovado, panocha, saccharose, treacle, and turbinado.
The effects of hidden sugars
The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends a daily intake of about 25 grams of sugar (6 teaspoons) – that’s easy when we can monitor how much sugar our children are adding to their breakfast or tea. WHO calculates we’re taking ten times that without realizing it!
That’s scary and besides, the havoc caused to our bodies is staggering. Healthy snacks for children circumvent a boatload of system damage.
The Brain – needs sugar every day to function, but it needs zero help from added sugar. It utilizes glucose readily recognized as provided in nature’s food. Added sugar is a counter-strike for the brain, which then can’t produce BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). Without this chemical we cannot learn, let alone remember anything. Worse, over time, it leads to impaired glucose metabolism and we’re looking at the onset of diabetes and a shame that we didn’t provide healthy snacks for our children.
The Kidneys – are our blood filter, too much sugar in the blood overloads them. Overloaded kidneys become damaged kidneys and the stats are not good for reversing it.
The Heart – takes strain directly to the heart muscle – ‘nuff said.
The Pancreas – is our insulin manufacturer and is one of the first organs to collapse under the weight of too much sugar. Diabetes will likely not be far off.
The Liver – Takes strain with the greater amounts of insulin the pancreas pumps out to counter the sugar and actually becomes resistant. Healthy snacks for children can indeed prevent Type 2 diabetes that closely follows a strained liver.
The Weight – is inarguably badly affected with all the foregoing as excess sugar gets stored as fat.
The Teeth – take a major hit and we know this all too well. The moment we consume sugar it interacts with our mouth bacteria and produces acid, which is responsible for tooth decay.
Choosing Healthy Snacks for Children’s Lunchboxes
With lunchboxes making up 30- 50% of daily food intake imagine the powerful effect on the health of our children if we could supply healthy lunch boxes for them.
Healthy snacks basically grow healthy kids.
We may refuse our children chocolate, but a Granola bar gets the nod when it has more calories per 100gs than any bar of chocolate. Granola cereal, however, does not contain that much sugar at all – so arrange for that instead.
Selecting healthy snacks for children means being aware of low-fat products, many of which are loaded with sugar and preservatives.
Encourage fresh fruit, like sliced pears with cottage cheese, popcorn, celery sticks with cheese, baby tomato and cheese kebabs on toothpicks – if old enough not to poke someone in the eye. Recommend children drink water rather than fruit juices or juice something fresh from home and make it delicious – we can add honey because we are keeping a check on what is being consumed.
The Value of Regular Dental Checks
Much as we may attempt to fool the dentist about how we make healthy snacks for our children and how often they brush their teeth and never eat sweets, may we assure you that teeth don’t lie!
The role of the dentist in our children’s health and self-esteem is often overlooked. If there is one area above all where prevention is better than cure it is in the arena of oral hygiene. Training our children to visit the dentist regularly will serve them for life.
With fewer problems to deal with; first, because we are conscious of making healthy snacks for children and second, because of the increased skill of dentists and oral hygienists which make the experience far more enjoyable, we can remove the age-old ‘fear of the dentist’ off our children’s radar.
The Shine Dental Clinic team has created SMILE PLANS for all ages. These allow families to prioritize their dental health and plan for regular visits.
SMILE PLAN FOR CHILDREN
- 2 Examinations Annually
- 1 Oral Hygiene Education Appointment
- 2 Fluoride Applications a year
- 10% discount on all treatment
- Child Plan £6.20 a month.
In conclusion, it helps to remember that while we want growing children to eat more often than three times a day to keep their blood sugar levels steady while they learn, the spike they receive from hidden sugars is artificial and brief, causes havoc to their teeth, the brains and general health.
Healthy snacks for children supply them with longer-lasting energy and their bodies utilize what they need from healthy food far more readily than being messed around with sugar highs and lows.
A visit to the Shine Dental Clinic website is a good way to introduce even young children to the value their dentist to keep their smile’s perfect while the parents can smile all the way to the bank: https://www.shinedentalclinic.co.uk/