If you said none, have you had a soft drink? Packet juice, maybe a muffin or andazi? Then you have had sugar and it could be more than you think. See there is a lot of ‘hidden’ sugar in most pastries and processed foods even if they are not necessarily sweet. For instance tomato sauce will have atleast 1 teaspoon sugar, while a can of soda could have as much as 10 teaspoons.

World Health Organization thus recommends that adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intakes. That’s about-50 g (or around 12 level teaspoons) per day. Free sugars refer to monosaccharides (glucose and fructose) and disaccharides (table sugar) added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. This does not include sugar in fresh fruits and juices, vegetables and milk.

Consumption of free sugars is of great concern due to the increasing trend in non-communicable diseases. They contribute to the overall energy density of a meal and may reduce consumption of more nutritious foods. Rather they provide what we call empty calories; energy that has no other health benefit. The result: poor nutrition, excess body weight, increased risk of non-communicable diseases and dental caries.

You may argue that the toothpastes we use have fluoride, and therefore we are safe from tooth decay. But this is not entirely true. Flouride does not completely prevent tooth decay. What’s more our habits of having sugar added bites, drinks and chewing gums all though the day does not quite help in reducing exposure.

Way foward

Quit using sugar as a strategy to increase energy. Not even for the baby. Instead, add peanut butter, fruits, and dairy products; increase frequency of feeds, as well the quantity of food.

I have a colleague that carries a toothbrush and toothpaste daily. I think she brushes after every meal. While it is good practice, limit the amount of sweet bites and drinks you have, including chewing gums.  Take lots of water instead.

Don’t be cheated by words like ‘diet’, or the mere fact that what you are eating is not sweet to taste. It may have less sugar than the other foods, but still have a lot more than the recommended. Worse still, it could have much more sugar than the sweet tasting alternative.

By all means, do not reward your children with sweets. Have you been asked to baby sit and the child tells you, “Mummy lets me have candy when I finish my homework’’.  We are already at 18% with obesity in preschool children. It can get worse.