The effects of sugar on our health have long been discussed. Weight gain and dental issues are just two of the consequences of too much sugar, and can be prevented by cutting both yours and your family’s intake. Now that the sugar tax has been introduced in the UK, now is the time to start considering sugary drinks alternatives. While some drinks companies have reduced their sugar content, many haven’t – which might make you think twice about the types of soft drinks you buy for your children.
What is the sugar tax?
The sugar tax is a new type of levy that drinks manufacturers must pay on any drinks that contain high levels of sugar. The move has meant that many brands have reduced their sugar content, including popular brands like Lucozade, Ribena and Fanta, but others continue to keep high levels of sugar in their products.
The tax is reflected in the price that you pay in the shops for your drinks, with the money being used in England to invest in initiatives such as sports clubs and breakfast clubs. It is hoped that families will look for alternatives to high-sugar drinks in order to save money and adopt healthier habits.
The recommended daily sugar intake for children is no more than 24g for children aged 7-10 and 19g for children aged 4-6, while adults shouldn’t have more than 30g a day. Drinks that are high in sugar can easily eat into your daily intake, so finding alternatives to sugary drinks can help you reduce yours and your children’s intake.
Sugary drinks alternatives
1. Sugar-free drinks
You’ll find many sugar-free drinks on the shelves next to their high-sugar counterparts. Usually called ‘diet’, ‘light’ or ‘zero’ drinks, they are formulated with sweeteners instead of sugars. While these provide a lower sugar alternative to typically soft drinks, they should still be consumed in moderation.
2. Low-fat milk
Milk is a good source of nutrition for children, containing calcium and other nutrients. While milk contains natural sugars, this is much less than that found in high-sugar drinks. Choose a low-fat milk option that will reduce children’s intake of saturated fat.
Water is important for staying hydrated, and should make up the majority of our fluid intake each day. It can be difficult to get children to drink water, but try ideas such as putting it in a colourful cup, or adding sugar-free squash to their water. Cold water can be more appealing, particularly during the summer months – so keep cold bottles in the fridge or freezer to help encourage children to stay hydrated.
4. Pure fruit juice
Pure fruit juices are exempt from the sugar tax, but they can still contain high levels of sugar that can lead to dental problems. One way to reduce the sugar content is to dilute the juice with water, for a lighter, refreshing drink. You could also put the mixture into ice lolly moulds to make healthier ice lollies during the summer months.
Fruit teas are a great alternative to sugary drinks, and there are plenty of varieties that offer natural flavours that kids will love. Make iced tea using fruit teas and add some sparkling water to make it more appealing to children. There are plenty of low-caffeine versions that won’t keep your kids up past their bedtimes.
There are many tasty, healthy alternatives to sugary drinks that will offer variety to your children. Think about what the sugar tax means for you and your family, and look for ways you can reduce your intake. The NHS Choices web page has some useful information on sugar and diet and some ideas for helping you cut your daily intake.