A sugar odyssey

My kids love sugar, I love sugar. Glucose, fructose, concentrated fruit juice, honey: it’s all the same to us! But none of us really ‘get’ toddler snacks!

I’m on a diet at the moment, so the mere mention of the ‘S’ word is enough to give me shivers (of the good kind)! Chocolate brownies may be off the menu, but would I replace them with an alternative using sugar substitute synthesised by bacteria then added to my food, or processed and heavily concentrated fruit juice?…probably not!

In the beginning there was just Girlbug. I lovingly prepared healthy snacks to take with me to playgroups, and she ignored the ubiquitous biscuits…for a while. Then Boybug came along. He was an easy baby, but with a nearly 2 year old and newborn I was fueling myself on biscuits and cake. Every trip out was punctuated by Boybug’s need of milk, and mine of caffeine and sugar. Girlbug, therefore, began to have the odd cake or biscuit here and there. Within weeks, playgroup became a biscuit battleground, cafés a cake catastrophe. She won, naturally. I was tired, I had a newborn, and I was new to the art of juggling multiple children.

So when that newborn grew a bit (a lot) and needed food of his own, the sugary snacks made an early appearance. I thought maybe Gilbug’s enthusiasm for sweet things was because she had been denied them early on. Well, having had them from the outset, Boybug is no less enthusiastic. I suspect that kids just like cake!

But I’m happy with the kids’ diet – they aren’t fussy and eat very well.

 

Chocolate cake
This afternoon’s light snack

Toddler snacks have always puzzled me though. We use them. They’re handy to have in, but I try to avoid them if I can. I worry that, while the toddler crisps are pretty harmless bits of flavoured cardboard, having easy access to them will encourage a habit of reaching for crisps. A habit that’ll be hard to break later when they want “grown up crisps”.

And I’ve never fully understood the mistrust for all things “refined sugar”, which the toddler snacks seem to play on. Several packages in my cupboard scream “no refined sugar” when you open the door. But why? I can totally understand trying to avoid sugary junk, and give the kids (or yourself) fruit instead. Eating uncomplicated, largely unprocessed, food has got to be the simplest way to good nutrition! Sugar is empty calories. It provides no goodness, no nutrients, nothing but a nice flavour and some energy. Go sugar-free, by all means, you have my admiration!

But…is an oat bar that’s been sweetened with fruit juice any better than a homemade flapjack (or a shop bought one for that matter)?

If you look at the Organix Oaty bars for example, their sugar content is over 25%. The majority of that is apple juice concentrate.This isn’t like eating an apple. It has no fibre and will be so concentrated as to be almost all sugar, with very little nutritional value…it’s basically no different to refined sugar.

If you’re worried about sugar content, you’d be better off with something like a raisin and oat breakfast bar, which has less sugar and is nearly half the price (£0.80 per 100g rather than £1.39 per 100g)!  Or if it’s the organic status that attracts you, try these – they have a similar sugar content, but they taste so much better (yes, yes, I eat all the kids snacks).
As I say, we use toddler snacks for convenience. But at home, I’d rather give them some cheese, or a piece of fruit. Plain rice cakes used to be my go-to option, but did you know Sweden have issued advice not to give them to children under 6 because of the arsenic content?? More on that another day I think!

If we’re going to have something sweet, I’d rather bake a muffin or flapjack (when there’s time) – full of refined sugar, but great to get the kids cooking, enjoying and understanding food. Sometimes we make banana bread with no added sugar. The kids love it, and unlike the “no added sugar” toddler snacks, this contains whole fruit so is not as sweet and retains much of the goodness!

Nutrition isn’t my expert subject, but I guess what I’m saying is:

  1. Everything in moderation.
  2. Don’t judge me for giving my kids biscuits at playgroup – they are very strong willed, and they are withholding sleep from me in a bid to make me give them chocolate…and I’m not sure those toddler bars are much better anyway.

Happy eating!

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