Research among 2,000 parents and children found that despite youngsters enjoying healthier snacks, the typical six-to-11-year-old still consumes 260 packets of crisps and 208 chocolate bars a year. Kids will also eat 260 bowls of sugary cereal, 208 glasses of fruit juice and an equal quantity (208) of cake slices. All of these treats add up to around 63 grams of sugar a day – equivalent to 5,738 sugar cubes a year – which is more than double Public Health England’s daily recommended maximum intake of five-six sugar cubes (24g) per day.
Arla Explorers, which commissioned the research, also led a behavioural experiment to launch its new range of kid’s reduced sugar yogurts, and found children significantly underestimate how much sugar is in their food.
Children were asked how much sugar was in a bowl of instant porridge, a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of fizzy pop.
They guessed each item contains between two and six cubes of sugar – which averaged roughly half the amount of sugar found in the products.
Children were also stunned to realise a fizzy drink contains as much as 10 cubes of sugar, with most believing it was five.
Rhiannon Lambert, registered nutritionist and spokesperson for Arla Explorers, said: “Providing kids with healthy and tasty snacks can sometimes be a minefield for parents who may often make the assumption that their child’s preference is for sugar.
“Kids do enjoy simple and natural snacks, especially when given a choice so parents should be thinking about replacing some of the unhealthier snacks with foods high in fibre such as fresh fruit to reduce their overall sugar consumption.”
The research also found parents are just as in the dark as children, with more than half of those polled admitting to not being on top of their youngster’s sugar intake.
And a third worry about the number of goodies their children receive when they are with their grandparents.
It emerged that parents reckon a child aged seven to 10 should consume a maximum of 20 grams of sugar a day – despite allowing them to typically have more than triple this amount.
This may be down to parents incentivising their children with sugary snacks, as a third admitted to giving their children treats as a reward for good behaviour.
And a quarter even said giving their kids sugary treats is ‘unavoidable’.
However, the behavioural experiment highlighted parents might not always need to use sugary snacks as an incentive, as children were tasked to pick a snack of their choice from two different tables.
One table was full of nutritious and healthy foods, and the other contained less healthy snacks like chocolate and crisps.
And eight out of 10 children chose a healthier option with strawberries, watermelon, apples and carrots being loaded on to plates.
Children were also presented with what looked like a normal brownie to taste, in which all gave a big thumbs up, yet were later amazed to find the secret natural ingredient was sweet potato.
The research, carried out by OnePoll, also revealed that despite concerns, children are more aware of the effects of sugar than we think.
More than half of children surveyed know too much sugar is unhealthy, and two-thirds agreed sugar was damaging for their teeth.
And when it comes to choosing foods, two-fifths of children placed emphasis on the smell, and more than a quarter will opt for healthier snacks because they know it’s good for them.
TV psychologist Anjula Mutanda said: “It’s really interesting to see children choosing healthier options over unhealthy as this isn’t something we as adults would always expect.
“Children often get a taste of sugar at a young age and this can encourage an appetite for the sweet stuff as they grow up.
“Providing a variety of foods that test children’s palette, including more simple and natural foods like fruit and popcorn, rather than crisps and chocolate, can often help children’s taste buds adjust and ensure they don’t always crave sugary snacks.”
Holly Twiss, Arla UK spokesperson for Explorers, added: “Kids snacks should be nutritious and fun, which is why we launched our new range of Arla Explorers yogurts.
“Each product contains naturally sourced ingredients with reduced sugar and encourages children to discover a more simple and natural taste, helping to bridge the gap between what parents feel their children should eat, and what children want.”