Should you give your child sugar?

A common topic that is usually addressed very lightly with long term consequences.

Sugar is not the enemy but how you consumed it and your source of sugar makes a world of difference. According to WHO, children between the ages 2-6 years consume about 100g of their daily consumption as sugar; meanwhile the recommended intake is just 25g/day (inclusive of fresh fruit juice). Alarming right?

I know you’re thinking well, I don’t give my child raw sugar to eat so this doesn’t apply to us. Let me paint you a clearer picture.

At 18 months, your child is taking formula/tea first thing in the morning because that is what they like. Each 100ml of formula contains an average of 7-8g of sugar in it known as lactose; while the average chocolate beverage contains 21g/serving. So if tea is the option that means your child has consumed 28g of sugar already and it not even 12pm. Breakfast could be cereal and milk or maybe bread; again another 7g from milk. Now cereals vary so I’ll take the lowest spectrum which is usually about 15g/serving; add that to our early morning milk/tea and we are at 50g. Lunch is eaten and you decided to give a snack, the snack given is packet juice or packet yoghurt. Listed on the pack which you didn’t read is that each 100ml contains about 10g of sugar; thus making our total for the day 60g. Dinner is had and it is 1 cup of a different cereal. Your child takes about half the meal and he/she is ready for bed. Again we are sticking with our average for cereal being 15g and 7g for milk (child ate half so our total is 11g). So our sugar total is now 71g. This is excluding the sugar gotten from carbs from meals eaten throughout the day.

This is the average day for a typical toddler who is exposed to the things listed above. This habit follows into teenage years and eventually the child becomes an adult. Coupled with not so great lifestyle choices and high stress levels, the individual begins to suffer from different ailments inclusive of hypertension, diabetes and even cancer.

This analogy isn’t to scare you but it is important this it is stated. Consumption of sugar does not mean just opening a jar or popping cubes of sugar into your mouth; but being conscious of the different forms, names and servings we consume daily. Here are a few tips to help you begin the switch immediately;

  1. For children, sugar should be highly limited to really just the carbohydrates that they get from their meals. If a child must be exposed to sugar it should come from natural sweeteners like fruits, honey (above 12 months), dates and raw maple syrup. Due to the concentration of these it is hard to overindulge as the tastes can be overwhelming.
  2. Have conversations about consumption of too many sweet things with your child. Be affirmative and let them know they can only have the options you present.
  3. A treat should always be a treat; regardless of how often something exciting or eventful happens, Parties, birthdays, rewards e.t.c.; you should ensure you limit the consumption. For example, if your child has a birthday party to attend let them have their treats but take away the candy from the party packs. If you have more than 3 birthday parties per month then let your child know they can have only ONE treat per party (popcorn, ice-cream, cake, candy e.t.c).
  4. Be the change you want to see. Show your children how serious you are about not consuming so much sugar by leading by example. If you have young children (2 years ad below); limit their intake of beverages, juices (including fruit juices), cereals to one of the listed per day. That way you control the sugar consumption without too many calculations.

It pays way more to limit sugar than pretend you don’t take it at all. Start the shift today. Would this be a challenge for you? Let me know your concerns in the comments session.


Ifeyinwa Omesiete is a certified expert Nutritionist on a
mission to save Africa’s children from malnourishment and
hunger. In the last 3 years, she practiced as the Lead
Analyst on Wellness and Pediatric Nutritionist at Carib
Health Nutrition and Wellness center in Lagos Nigeria. She
obtained her BSc. in Nutritional Sciences from the University
of Minnesota in the United States of America and has about
5 years of cognate interdisciplinary experience that cuts
across Africa and North America.

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