We all know that sweet treats should be given in moderation, but what about all of the hidden sugar lurking in foods you might not expect?
Hidden sugar in kids foods: what’s in your child’s favourites?
We all know that sweet treats like cakes and cookies should be given in moderation – but have you ever wondered how much sugar your child is really eating on a daily basis?
From ready meals to lunch box fillers, some children’s favourites from trusted brands are packed with surprisingly high levels of sugar, and often, it’s lurking in many of the foods that you might not expect. Not only this, but the labelling of sugar is more confusing than ever, with manufacturers referring to the sweet stuff as fructose, dextrose, maltose, sucrose and more.
It’s therefore unsurprising that many parents are feeding their children way above the recommended daily allowance of sugar without even realising – in fact, a study from Birmingham University found that on average, kids in the UK are consuming 75g of sugar a day. That’s around 19 teaspoons, and a staggering four times the amount the guidelines advise.
And it’s not just foods that are rotting kids teeth and affecting their overall health – sugary drink consumption is enormous, with surveys suggesting that children aged four to eight whose parents regularly consume fizzy drinks are almost three times as likely to drink them as other children their age whose parents don’t.
Statistics from Cancer Research UK show that children who start primary school in England at a healthy weight often end up obese or overweight by the time they leave, so it’s important to look at the facts about sugar and ensure that your child’s consumption isn’t leading them down an unhealthy path.
Here, we look at some of the most shocking sugary offenders that could be in your kitchen – from the curry that contains almost twice as much sugar as a McDonalds doughnut to the fruit snack that contains a whopping 17g of sugar in a 25g bag.
Click through to see the full list of kids sugar shockers – we bet you’ll be surprised at what you see…
Sugar per serving: 14.8g
We all know that chocolate coated flakes and pops aren’t the best choice if you’re looking for a healthy cereal, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Frosties have a little extra sugar compared with a bowl of regular cornflakes, either.
However, a recent report from Public Health Liverpool exposed just how much sugar Kellogg’s have managed to pack into one 40g portion – and it’s pretty shocking, giving children aged seven to 10 years old more than TWICE their recommended sugar allowance (a maximum of six cubes a day).
Coco Pops and Cookie Crisp also came under fire in the exposé, although Kellogg’s responded that it had recently reduced sugar in Coco Pops by 14%, and that the recommended portion size for its cereals was 30g.
Sugar per serving: 4g
Parents who choose Rice Krispies as a healthier choice for their children’s breakfast might be shocked to discover that the second item on the ingredient list is sugar.
The same Public Heath Liverpool report highlighted them as a ‘medium’ option – they’re not the worst offender, but still deceptively high in the sweet stuff for a product that many assume is just plain puffed rice.
Sugar per serving: 8.8g
An investigation from The Mail on Sunday highlighted a number of ready meals targeted at children that had high levels of sugar, including this pasta dish from Annabel Karmel.
The meal does contain three of your child’s five-a-day, is low in salt, and made with no artificial preservatives, but the paper highlighted that it was also sweetened with agave syrup, apple juice and sugar.
However, a spokesman for Annabel Karmel said that more than half of the sugar in the pasta dish came from vegetables, and that agave syrup was ‘a natural ingredient which is used in extremely small quantities to take away the acidity of the tomato sauce’.
Sugar per serving: 14.8g
The Mail also pointed out the sugar content of this curry from the Kirsty’s meal range, which makes products that are free of wheat, dairy and gluten.
Wholesome ingredients in the dish include sweet potato, apricot, yellow pepper, red pepper and chickpea, but whilst there’s ‘no added sugar’ in the dish, it does contain almost twice the amount contained in a McDonald’s Sugar Donut, in part thanks to the inclusion of agave syrup, which gives the dish a sweeter taste.
‘Most of the sugars in our foods are a result of the natural sweetness found in sweet potato and other nutrient-rich vegetables,’ the brand responded.
Sugar per serving: 8.9g This rice dish from Heinz was another child-friendly option covered by The Mail on Sunday; although the packaging boasts that it contains three different veg, provides a source of iron and has a minimal salt content, it’s also relatively high in sugar.
Chloe Joyner, nutritionist at children’s food company Kiddyum, which helped compile the research, said of the findings: ‘It’s very easy for parents to look at the packaging and see “two of your five a day” or “organic” and feel confident that it’s healthy – and not see what’s in the ingredients.’
Sugar per serving: 8.9gWe all know kids go mad for anything with a Minion on the front, but these pasta shapes in tomato sauce have come under fire for their sugar content too.
Although they count as one of your child’s five-a-day thanks to the inclusion of the tomato, they also contain around half of the daily allowance of sugar for a 4-6 year old child, so they’re one to reconsider if you’re serving them up for dinner on a regular basis.
Heinz says that they have reduced the sugar in their tinned products in recent years and are working to take this down further.
Sugar per serving: 11.4g
Healthy yogurt can be a great choice for a dessert for the kids – but an analysis from The Grocer showed that some popular brands contain far more sugar than one might expect.
These Munch Bunch strawberry and vanilla yogurts, for instance, contain a whopping 11.4g sugar – more than, for instance, a fun size Milky Way, with 10g, or the 7g in two Maryland Chocolate Chip cookies. Whilst we’re not suggesting that these are more nutritious options, it’s certainly food for thought…
Sugar per serving: 13g
Similarly, these yogurt-coated fruit flakes seem like they could be a virtuous snack, made from apple and raspberry purees, but are actually comprised of more than 50 per cent sugar.
In fact, the organisation Action on Sugar highlighted these, along with a number of other typical lunch box treats, as exceeding the 47g per 100g of sugar found in Haribo Starmix!
Sugar per serving: 15.8g
And just when you thought the Fruit Bowl Raspberry Yogurt Flakes were high in sugar, these raisins from Whitworths contain even more! They pack a whopping 63.4g per 100g, compared with Fruit Bowl’s 62g, and Haribo Starmix’s 47g.
Sugar per serving: 14.5g
With just 63 calories and 0.3g fat per serving, it’d be easy to assume that these slurpers are a good all-rounder for lunches, snacking and more.
However, Action on Sugar included them in a round up of seemingly healthy drinks to shed light on – you’ve guessed it – their sugar content, which is 14.5g per relatively small serving.
What’s more, these smoothie pouches are only 90g, whereas a typical serving of smoothie would be 200ml – so if you were to give more than one, or squeeze them into a glass, the sugar levels would be even higher.