Published on 19 January 2017

Many children in England are reported to consume more than half of their daily recommended intake of sugar before they have sat down at their school desk in the morning, according to a new study by Public Health England.

Sugary breakfasts that could contain up to three sugar cubes, found in cereals, spreads and fruit juice, have been highlighted as making the daily recommended sugar intake for young people very difficult to achieve.

The recommended sugar intake is a maximum of no more than five cubes of sugar for children aged four to six, and no more than six cubes children aged seven to 10.

Healthy breakfast options could help cut down on the amount of sugar eaten by children

However, the report compiled from a survey conducted for Public Health England’s Change4Life campaign, showed that many young people were consuming more than three times their recommended daily sugar allowance.

It further suggested that many parents were unsure of what makes up a healthy breakfast for their children, with more than eight in 10 parents (84%) believing that their child’s breakfast was healthy, even if it contained the equivalent of more than three sugar cubes.

Young people eating too much sugar and not getting enough exercise can be at risk of obesity and developing related health conditions like type 2 diabetes.

Away from the breakfast table children were also found to be consuming too much sugar, saturated fat and salt in items such as confectionery, biscuits, muffins, pastries and soft drinks. All of which can contribute to an unhealthy diet.

To help parents take more control of their children’s diets PHE’s Change4Life campaign has recently launched the new Be Food Smart app, developed to highlight just how much sugar, saturated fat and salt can be found in everyday food and drink that their children consume.

The free app helps and encourages families to choose healthier options and works by scanning the barcode of products allowing parents to compare brands, and features food detective activities for children and mini missions the whole family can enjoy.

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Children have far too much sugar, and a lot of it is before their first lesson of the day. It’s crucial for children to have a healthy breakfast, but we know the mornings in a busy household can be fraught.

“That’s why we’ve developed our Be Food Smart App, taking some of the pressure off parents and helping them to choose healthier food and drink options for their children.”

The Change 4 Life campaign also aims to help parents identify the health risks of children eating and drinking too much sugar, saturated fat and salt, including becoming overweight or obese and developing tooth decay.

Recent reports show that childhood obesity in England has reached alarming rates. More than one in five children start primary school overweight or obese, rising to more than a third by the time they leave.

Sara Stanner, Science Director at the British Nutrition Foundation, said: “When analysing a number of breakfasts from families across England, we were concerned to see the high amount of free sugars and low amount of fibre in many of these.

“We know a healthy breakfast can make an important contribution to children’s vitamin and mineral intakes and its consumption has been linked to many positive health outcomes. There are plenty of healthier options available so we need campaigns like Change4Life to help busy parents make the right choices for their families.”

Public Health England is currently working with retailers, food manufacturers and other organisations in the food industry to reduce the amount of sugar by 20% contained in products children consume. Eight in 10 parents (81%) surveyed said they supported this action and believed food manufacturers had a responsibility to reduce sugar in their products.

Find out more about Change4Life and sugar intake advice for young people.

Download the free Be Food Smart app through the Apple App Store (iPhones) or through Google Play (Android smartphones) for tips to cut down the amount of total sugar, saturated fat and salt in your family’s diet

Read the DRWF leaflets A healthy diet and diabetes and Periodontal disease and diabetes here

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