In recent years the governments in developed countries have been working towards tackling childhood obesity. By educating families about healthy lifestyles and food choices they set the ground for healthier nations.
Bracing for the sugar threat
In the UK, the “Change for life” initiative released free, child-friendly packs aimed at getting more families active for 60 minutes a day. The past summer “Change for life” kick started a sugar swaps campaign, an easy way to swap your child’s favourite sugary treats for a tasty but healthier option at their tents around the country.
New guidelines suggest that children aged four to six years should have no more than five cubes of sugar per day (19 grams), children aged seven to ten no more than six cubes (24 grams) and children aged 11 and up should not be having more than seven cubes (30 grams).
On average kids are eating three times more than their maximum recommended daily amount of refined sugar. The biggest culprits are sugary drinks, fizzy sodas and fruit juices. You may think of a fruit juice as the healthier option since the labels count it towards one of your “five a day”, but these boxed and bottled fruit extractions are still so packed with sugar, that it is best to limit these juices to no more than a 150ml per day.
There is a shockingly heaping amount of sugar in our everyday processed food that, as with allergens, we must be vigilant when shopping. Manufacturers add sugars and you may not recognise them as such. These hidden sugars can be listed as: fructose, sucrose, glucose and high fructose corn syrup. Anything ending with -ose is potentially sugar. Even the organic “natural” juices are highly concentrated in sugar, be it natural from the squeezed fruits.
We must also be careful not to add too much sugar when cooking or preparing simple things like breakfast.
One easy way to reduce your family’s sugar intake is to make your own meals. This way you know exactly what is going into your children and you can easily swap refined sugar for a tablespoon of honey or other more nutritious natural sweeteners.
In my recipe for quick and easy oat bars I will be using a tablespoon of honey, a natural sweetener. Honey is an excellent choice as it has none of the additives of manufactured sweeteners and nourishes while adding sweetness.
Honey is rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B6 and calcium, but beware it does also contain fructose, glucose and sucrose, so you must still be very vigilant about the amount you are using. Additionally, honey is not suitable for vegans and some allergy sufferers. Look for reputable honey suppliers and if your valet allows for organic produce since there were many scandals in recent years involving mislabeling of this sweet nectar.
To make my quick and easy Healthy honey oat bars you need:
- ½ cup of gluten free porridge oats
- ½ cup of appropriate alternative milk (I’m using almond)
- 1 tbs honey
- a hand full of raisins (be careful not to add too many as they may not hold together)
Mix together your porridge oats and milk in a small oven proof dish. Once they are well combined, add a tablespoon of honey and mix well.
Stir in the raisins until they are well distributed, then pop your dish into the microwave for two to three minutes, depending on your wattage. If you try to avoid microwaving you can warm the mixture through in an oven until the liquids are absorbed.
Once they are ready, use a potato masher to press mixture down to make sure it is compact and flat.
Allow the mixture to cool off completely. Once they are cold you will be able to cut your oat bars into shape, these oat bars will be soft but will not fall apart, the softness of the texture means that young babies can use them as finger food during the weaning process.
For a treat, prepare some of your homemade yoghurt to dip them in or serve them with plain rice cakes and homemade fruit crisps at a playdate.
Once you have introduced the oat bars to your children, you can swap the raisins for other fruits. Perhaps your child likes cherries or dried apricots, or try adding nuts for extra texture and protein. Oats lower bad cholesterol and keep the blood sugar levelled, so no jittery kids after my honey oat bars snack!