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Sugar - what every parent should know

Going sugar-free seems to be this year's hot diet trend. According to recent newspaper headlines sugar is the 'new tobacco', responsible for causing obesity and diabetes and something we should all be cutting out of our diets.

So should you be worried about this? Should you be cutting sugar out of your diet entirely? Well, it seems that in reality the danger is not necessarily in the sugar itself, but in the levels at which some of us are consuming it. NHS guidelines say sugar shouldn't make up more than 10% of your daily intake of calories.

Added salt and sugar in foods can be an issue and unless you read the small print, you may not always be aware of just how many things contain surprising levels of sugar. You might expect a can of cola to contain lots of sugar (in fact about nine teaspoons), but you may not realise the high levels that can be found in many other common foods and drinks such as flavoured waters, yogurts, pasta sauces and ready meals - for example, one single pot of fat-free yogurt can contain the equivalent of five teaspoons of sugar! Fruit juice also contains high levels of fructose and so some experts now advise that you should either avoid it altogether or dilute it.

This latest debate has been launched by a new campaign group, Action on Sugar, which aims to help people to become more aware of the hidden levels of sugar in foods, and to encourage them to avoid products which contain a lot of sugar by checking labels in supermarkets. The campaigners are particularly concerned about children who they see as a vulnerable group with the levels of sugar in many foods that are marketed at them.

Giving up everything that contains sugar may prove a hard task, but cutting back does make sense and it is a good idea to check labels to ensure you aren't consuming high levels of hidden sugar without being aware of it. Sugar may be labelled as sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose or corn syrup. If any of these are high up on the list of ingredients, a product probably has a high sugar content.

You should also avoid adding any sugar to your baby's food during his first year of weaning. A baby's appetite for savoury foods can be affected if he is eats sugary foods and can lead to serious problems such as tooth decay and obesity.

You can find out more on the Action on Sugar website.

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