Easter egg

Worried about sugar over Easter? Then read dietitian Laura Clark’s post on how to survive the sugar-crashing season with appropriate control over chocolate servings. 

The sugar debate continues to rumble on with Public Health England making the headlines this week, challenging businesses to cut sugar by 20% by 2020 and by 5% this year.

If successful this takes out 200,000 tonnes of sugar per year which does sound quite impressive. Children after all are on average consuming three times as much sugar as they should be and you only have to visit the playground to see the rising levels of childhood obesity.

And yet this is always a subject I grapple with as a big chocolate fan, as a dietitian and as a Mum. My 3 year old has come out of nursery at least twice this week clutching some chocolate cornflake creation – his pride and joy – which he has then tried to consume whilst juggling scootering home; chocolate causes trouble in so many ways!

And the Easter bunny – well she’s worse than Father Christmas – bucket loads of the stuff descends on us from all angles and we inevitably try to, ‘help the kids out’ by eating some ourselves, secretly glad of the excuse to indulge.

Many of the eating habits we formed as children are observed by our offspring and copied. Often in our attempts to feed our children well, our own eating habits take a bit of a beating too – and there’s always a little face watching you!

Read nutrition strategies for the busy parent for some really practical advice.

So, I’m pleased manufacturers are being urged to take responsibility. I even had an email from a major one today keen to tell me of their pledges of responsibility.

One of the best outcomes, in my opinion, would be adjusting what counts as a single serve as most offerings are far too big for children.

Attempts to reduce pre -determined portion sizes by breaking bits off and leaving some behind in the packet always end in disaster. My children have the noses of bloodhounds. They will sniff it out and interrogate me with more force than the SAS.

And yet the reason I do this is not because I am a glutton for punishment but because I know that the recommended portion for a 2-4 year old is 6-8 buttons or 2 squares of chocolate!

I worry that complete free reign ruins my chances of getting any dinner in them, puts extra pressure on the debacle that is teeth cleaning every night and perhaps more importantly adjusts the sugar hit they require to feel satisfied.

Too large a portion size of sweets etc. not only threatens their waist lines but also their perceptions of the context of these foods within the whole of their diet.

Most chocolate bars sold contain well over 150 calories and the size of the cookies in the local soft play would represent a quarter of a child’s energy needs for the whole day.

If we don’t start off with an appropriately sized portion inevitably this just grows and grows as they get older.

It is a never ending tricky situation. Hailing the desserts and sweeter things in life as the prize for eating the greens on the plate is never the right thing to do and describing broccoli as a magic tree’ to encourage consumption definitely runs its course! No matter what the phase though, vegetables should always be normalised – there they are again and they’ll be there tomorrow too my darling’

In the extreme, I’ve seen severely obese people in clinics being assessed for weight loss surgery whose parents did very bizarre things – using food constantly as a form of reward or punishment and I maintain food is food, not a weapon.

And so to the best bit of advice I can give as Easter approaches serve treats in egg cups when possible.

This satisfies little tummies and tells their brains that’s the perfect portion for the perfect them. That or encourage the Easter Bunny to bring prosecco which might also be a good option! (*joke*)

Keep up to date with Laura’s site, blog, FBTwitter and Instagram.

 If you want to see me or any other registered dietitians for advice check out www.freelancedietitians.org.

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