Recently, I have become very aware that the amount of sugar that we as a family consume is beyond a joke. I have a sweet tooth. I have had a sweet tooth from as long as I can remember (and that would be creeping into the larder under the stairs when I was about 6 to glug mouthfuls of Calpol back when it routinely contained sugar and was the sweetest nectar sent from the gods) and I have reconciled myself with the fact that I am now addicted to the stuff.
When I was a child, my parents only allowed my siblings and I to have sweets on a Sunday, after church, ensuring that we would always attend church because if we were not well enough for church then we were not well enough for sweets. My mother is a very smart lady. Mum would buy a big bag of sweets (the chewy sticks were a particular fave), we would share them out into 4 equal piles, then devour them in approx. 9.74 seconds, leaving us craving sweets for the next 6 days, hence the Calpol addiction.
Now, it seems the practices that we were subjected to by my parents are no longer à la mode when it comes to their grandchildren. My dad, in particular, would happily allow them to have sweets for breakfast, lunch and dinner if they so wished, because he refuses to “deprive them”… *insert straight line mouth emoji*.
Anyway, a little while ago, I was contacted by Change4Life about being involved in their campaign to spread awareness around sugar intake, specifically among the Black community. I was asked to contribute to a little something that was shared across Black press and, as a result, I actually started using the Food Scanner app. Like, I truly, actually, genuinely used it. And, guess what? I love it! And my kids love it! And The Photographer loves it!
Now, I’m not saying that since downloading the app and having a look at the Change4Life website we have given up sugar, because, quite simply, we haven’t. What we have done is become more conscious about our shopping and consumption choices. I have initiated more chats with my children about the potential harm that too much sugar can do. As a family, we are trying to be realistic about the changes we can make, while being sure not to turn food into a major issue. We haven’t outlawed sugar, but we have tried to limit it as much as possible. So, the Photographer and I have had awkward conversations with the wider family, using the food scanner app as supporting evidence, imploring them not to demonstrate their love for their nieces/granddaughters/cousins by bringing them gifts of Haribo and Maoam! *rolls eyes* It’s not easy, but it is necessary, and I know that the kids will eventually thank us for it.
So, the press release is below. Have a read or just download the app and have a play. I promise you, you will learn something new. What you choose to do with the information is up to you…
The recent Change4Life campaign highlighted that children in England are consuming too much sugar – an extra 2,800 sugar cubes per year. That’s equivalent to 312 cans of sugary cola, 469 higher-sugar yoghurts or 562 chocolate bars!
Too much sugar is bad for children’s health. It can lead to the build-up of harmful fat on the inside that we can’t see. This fat can cause weight gain and serious diseases like type 2 diabetes – which people are getting younger than ever before – heart disease and some cancers. Too much sugar can also cause painful tooth decay; shockingly every 10 minutes, a child in England has a rotten tooth removed in hospital.
We talked to parenting and lifestyle blogger ‘Hey… Is that me?*’, Cee Olaleye, who has two daughters aged 7 and 10. Cee tells us how she has become more aware of her children’s sugar intake and the action she has taken action to reduce it by making simple everyday swaps to healthier, lower-sugar versions of the foods and drinks they enjoy. Cee also tells us about the challenges she faces when making these changes, especially when it comes to cultural foods and family members such as grandparents.
Reducing sugar intake
Cee Olaleye said “Like most mums, the health of my children is very important to me, so I try to make sure that they don’t have too much sugar.
“I’m careful with breakfast cereals, as I know some of them contain a lot of sugar. For example, a bowl of higher-sugar cereal can have around 3 cubes of sugar per serving, so in the morning we go for things like porridge, scrambled eggs and other lower sugar options.”
“When it comes to drinks, my kids mainly have water. Occasionally, I give them juice drinks, but I know they can be high in sugar so we limit their consumption very strictly.
I also encourage my girls to eat plenty of fruit and veg. Sometimes I add them into food, like pasta sauces, and the kids don’t even know they’re there!”
Cee recently downloaded the Change4Life food scanner app, so she could see how much sugar is in everyday foods and drinks. Cee shares “My girls love using the Change4Life food scanner app and seeing the ‘traffic light’ labels on products brought to life. It’s a fab app that is enjoyable and informative for both children and adults alike.
“I was very surprised about the amount of sugar in foods and drinks that are marketed as (and that I thought were) healthy. The app has made reducing my kids’ sugar intake much easier – the girls have made up their own minds after seeing the sugar content of certain foods and drinks, and now they don’t want to eat some of the items that they know are high in sugar!”
Dealing with sugar in cultural foods
Cee said “Food is such a huge part of our culture and it’s an important way that we connect with our African heritage. My girls love eating African snacks such as Chin Chin and Pof Pof, which can contain a lot of sugar, but they now only have them occasionally. Grandma also likes to make these from scratch, meaning that we can reduce the sugar content compared to shop bought ones, which really helps.”
The influence of family members
Grandparents can play a significant role in their grandchildren’s diet.
Cee said “Grandparents and aunties often give my kids sugary snacks whenever they see them, which can be tough to manage. I think that if we show grandparents how much sugar is in everyday foods and drinks they could help us make swaps to healthier, lower sugar options.”
Cee concludes “We owe it to our children to teach them how to live a healthy lifestyle and avoid serious diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which are common within the black community.”
Change4Life is here to help you and your family cut back on sugar. You can find out all about it here.
Then, you should totally download the free Change4Life Food Scanner app to see the sugar content of everyday popular items or search Change4Life for healthier swap ideas.
This is a collaborative post, produced in association with Change4Life.