A new public health campaign in Liverpool is warning that so-called healthy yogurts could be tipping children over their daily sugar limit.
It is part of the city’s ‘Save Kids from Sugar’ war against added sugar, which has already highlighted the large number of sugar cubes in some popular drinks and breakfast cereals.
Analysis by Liverpool’s Public Health team shows that some yogurts contain the equivalent of almost five sugar cubes – which means a child aged 4-6 could be having all their daily allowance in one snack.
Research has shown that parents are shocked and confused when they discover how much added sugar is in snacks that they believe are healthy.
Over the next few months, Public Health Liverpool is highlighting the issue with a digital media campaign backed up by pop ups, posters and leaflets in health centres, dentist surgeries, Children’s Centres and hospitals identifying how many sugar cubes are in an average serving of popular brands of yogurts.
There will also be a roadshow tour of supermarkets and public buildings at which staff will be on hand to chat to parents about healthier choices.
Parents can log on to a website – www.savekidsfromsugar.co.uk – and calculate how much sugar their children are consuming each day and get tips on healthier snacks.
WATCH: Save Kids from Sugar animation
When added to drinks and snacks later in the day, some children could be having up to 20 sugar cubes in one day – more than three times the recommended number.
The drive is aimed at tackling an alarming level of childhood obesity in the city. Around 12% of reception school age children classed as obese. Over 23% of year 6 children are obese, and almost 40% are overweight or obese.
Too much sugar in a child’s diet can lead to obesity, tooth decay, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some common cancers in the future.
Children aged between four and 10 years old consume approximately 5,500 sugar cubes each year hidden in their food and drink – more than the total body weight of an average five-year-old child.
Councillor Tim Beaumont, Mayoral lead for wellbeing, said: “Parents are bombarded by marketing messages that yogurts are healthy. Some are, but many are loaded with sugar and families simply don’t realise how much is in them.
“Our campaign is aimed at explaining how much sugar is in each brand and giving them tips on healthier options such as plain or low fat Greek yogurt with added fruit for natural sweetness.
“We’re not trying to say ‘don’t eat that’, we’re trying to present people with information in a way that’s easy to understand, so they have a choice.
“This is not about putting some foods in the naughty corner, but it’s all about finding a balance and empowering parents to make the right choices for their children.
“Combined with other sugary snacks, drinks and chocolate bars, yogurts are contributing to an alarming level of tooth decay and obesity in children.”
Almost a third of five year olds in Liverpool have decayed, missing or filled teeth, with 2 children a day under the age of 10 having to be admitted to hospital to get teeth removed.
Director of Public Health, Dr Sandra Davies, said: “Tackling sugar in diets is a real priority for us because we know that people simply don’t realise how much they are consuming.
“If we are to stand any chance of tackling this ticking time bomb, we must give parents as much information as possible so they can make informed decisions.
“Most people don’t have the time to read labels when racing around the supermarket to complete their weekly shop and so we have to support them to make healthier choices.”
The campaign is being backed by Liverpool-based campaign group Food Active. Beth Bradshaw from the organisation said: “People shouldn’t be fooled into thinking a yogurt is healthy because it is a fruit version.
“The issue with fruit in a lot of pre-packaged yogurts is that it has been processed and altered to be almost unrecognisable.
“Yogurt is such a healthy and delicious food to give children, it should feature in their diet on a daily basis because it’s full of calcium, which helps promote healthy bone development and is a really good source of protein.
“The golden rule is to opt for plain yogurt as a starting point – plain low fat Greek and natural yogurts are delicious and are much lower in added sugars. Plus you can add in your own tasty fruit flavours just the way your child likes them.”
THE NUMBER OF SUGAR CUBES IN POPULAR YOGURTS
• 4.9 – Muller corner
• 4.7 – Aldi Brooklea (own brand)
• 4.5 – Asda own brand
• 3.3 – Smarties (Nestle)
• 2.6 – Ski (Nestle)
• 2.2 – Lidl Milbona (own brand)
• 2.1 – Petits Filous (Yoplait)
• 2 – Munch Bunch (Nestle)
Each cube = 4g of added sugar
TOP TIPS FOR PARENTS
• Don’t just look at the traffic light guidelines to help check the added sugar content – look out for ‘glucose’, ‘fruit purees’, ‘fructose’ and ‘fruit concentrate’
• Some yogurts, such as Greek-style, can be high in fat so look for lower fat versions.
• Add defrosted frozen fruit to plain yogurt to add flavour and colour
• Use tinned fruit in natural juices to make DIY yogurt pots in tropical flavours like pineapple