Sugar: how much is good for our children?

For several years, over-consumption of sugar has been observed in children. Sugar hides in juice, sauces, cakes and compotes, in smaller and larger quantities in our normal daily diet. It is even present where we don’t expect it!

In this article we examine and breakdown some of the key points from the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN)

What is sugar?

This question may seem absurd, but it is important to distinguish between different types of sugars. Experts talk about natural sugars and free sugars.

In the category of natural sugars, we can identify:

  • Simple carbohydrates (or fast sugars) found in refined white sugar, milk and some dairy products but also in fruits.
  • Complex carbohydrates (or slow sugars) found in certain cereals (bread, pasta, rice…) or some of the fresh vegetables (carrot, celery, pumpkin..) and dried fruits.

As for free sugars they are:

  • Naturally present in certain foods, such as honey, syrups (maple, agave…) and fruit juices.
  • Added by manufacturers (refined sugars) everywhere in our daily diet: drinks, small yogurt pots, cookies, breakfast cereals, flavoured milks.

These free sugars are what we are discussing when we talk the harms of sugar and all the pathologies associated with it.

The impact of sugar consumpton on our bodies?

The French Health Safety Agency (Anses) revealed in June 2019 that 75% of children aged 4 to 7 consume too much sugar daily. At present, there is even talk of sugar addiction, in babies and children, which becomes comparable to a drug.  Indeed, sugar has a strimulant and boosting effect. When the child ingests sugar, they feel the effects but as soon as the sugar leaves the bloodstream, the child wants to regain that pleasant sensation. This dependence obviously has, in the short and long term, harmful consequences on the body.

In a visible way:

  •  Appearance of cavities and tooth erosion
  • Weight gain, being overweight or obesity
  • Mood disorders, hyperexcitability
  • Memory problems, reduced concentration

More sneakily: Increased risk of cardiovascular disease


  • Digestive disorders: chronic diarrhea, flatulence, abdominal pain, growth abnormalities, bloating
  • Increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes
  • Changing nutritional habits
  • Disruption of the feeling of fullness

So how do we manage our children’s diet?

It is important to note that innately, the infant and the child inevitably turn to sweet and sweet foods.

It is at an early age that your child learns his or her food preferences. Indeed, eating habits are acquired very early in life. The child will keep them throughout life for the most part. The choice of food depends mainly on the culture but also on the influence of the parents. It is therefore necessary for parents to teach their children to consume a wide variety of foods.

Pediatricians recommend starting with  vegetable food diversification. Starting with vegetables and not fruits (which have a sweet taste) allows your child to get used to a taste other than sugar (to which he is innately attracted) and thus to accept different types of foods more easily. Above all, refined sugars should be avoided as much as possible from an early age.

One small point for those breastfeeding: It was noted that breastfed children, at an early age, were more willing to test new flavours compared to other infant bottle fed children (which often has a sweet taste).

Indeed, since breast milk changes its tasted dependent on the mothers diet, infants would be more likely to eat a wider variety of food through to adulthood.

ESPHAN Recommendations

We come to the big question: Should sugar be banned from children’s diets? And the answer is of course NO!  Carbohydrates are a bit of the fuel our body needs to function properly. However, the key is to limit the consumption of free sugars.


During childhood, the high intake of sugar is often associated with two meals: breakfast and snack. ANSES encourages replacing cereals, biscuits, fruit juices or sugary drinks “with other more qualitatively interesting foods such as sugar-free dairy products or other calcium-rich foods as well as fresh fruit (i.e. unprocessed) and nuts.” Sugar should be consumed as a main course and not as a snack.

The table shows the recommended maximum daily intake of free sugar (< 5% energy intake) depending on age.


Know how to recognize false friends

Unfortunately, European regulations do not require the display of a label indicating the presence of refined sugars in infant and child foods. It is complicated to always know what sugars are contained within and therefore important to check for yourself the amount of sugar for a given volume in each food.

Here are some false friends that can be regularly found in our little ones’ daily diet:

  • Fruit juices: Whether 100% pure juice or concentrate, they contain between 24 and 88 g of sugar or 4 to 14 squares of sugar for 2 glasses (or 500 ml) of drink. So, choose a piece of fresh fruit as it is contains much less sugar.
  • Small yogurt pots,compotes and flavored milks for children:

A recent WHO study warns that much sugar and sweeteners are too high in infant foods.Choose homemade preparations or be sure to check labels with nutritional information.

  • Agave syrup or nectar The original agave plant contains many healthy benefits. However,the form in which it is sold, having undergone a heat treatment (refinement process), has destroyed all its health benefits.The final form of agave nectar becomes a highly sweet syrup harmful to the body.It can be found as a sweetener,in certain foods and dietary supplements for children.

The over-consumption of sugar in children is proving to be a real problem in today’s society,which health professionals are concerned about. Banning sugar from their diet is not the answer.

Indeed,there are good and bad sugars that need to be identified in order to reduce their consumption.The best solution is to introduce your children to a wide variety of foods,but also to check the nutritional labels.


Taken from an article first published by LAUDAVIE October 25, 2019


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