Reducing sugar intake (the pre-schooler edition)

June 27, 2014

Have you heard this week’s news story about SACN’s recommendations regarding our consumption of sugar? SACN – the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition – have recommended that we all consume more fibre and less free sugars. Specifically, they’ve said:

For the population to lower the consumption of free sugars to around 5% of daily dietary energy intake which is 25g for women (5 – 6 teaspoons) and 35g (7 – 8 teaspoons) for men based on average population diets. The consumption of sugars-sweetened beverages (e.g. fizzy drinks, squash) should be minimised by both children and adults.

If you fancy reading the press release rather than the media’s interpretation of it – it’s here SACN draft report on Carbohydrates and Health for public consultation.

My sister made the decision some time ago to vastly limit the amount of free sugars my little nephew eats and drinks. So, I thought it would be interesting to ask her more about the decision, the practicalities of it, and what it’s like to live a low-sugar lifestyle with a toddler in the house.

(Check out my other nephew-related posts: The Nephew Workout when he was a baby (we’ve both grown since then LOL!) and The Nephew Workout revisited when he came to stay with me when I was just a few days out from a bodybuilding comp!)

On with the interview!
The Fit Writer: Why did you decide to minimise sugar in Henry’s diet? Was there one event, a trigger, or something you’d read/heard?

The Fit Sister: We initially took Henry to have food intolerance tests as he spent the first two years of life with a runny nose and cough. After putting it down to being in childcare from an early age (and him “being a boy”), we decided to look into it further. I mentioned his other unusual behaviours to the herbalist: Henry always seemed angrier than most toddlers, with more energy, had tendencies to push and hit out at other people, and throw and kick his toys. These are usual traits of toddlers, especially boys, but they seemed more pronounced in him (in comparison to his peers). It was at this point that we realised he was intolerant to sugars (as well as lactose and cheese).

TFW: How easy (or not) has it been? How did life have to change in terms of cooking, shopping, sourcing food, recipes, life outside the home?

TFS: It was a lot easier to begin with when Henry didn’t really realise what was happening. We always cook from fresh, so main meals were easy. He had always had cinnamon on porridge for breakfast but instead of following it with a children’s yoghurt, we switched to goats milk yoghurt sweetened with a cinnamon. Shopping was time consuming to begin with. I was genuinely unaware how much sugar is in things like bread, his beloved wraps, cereals and even some crisps! However it only took a few weeks to realise what I could and couldn’t buy. I found that by not having it in the house, it was easier for us all. It’s more difficult when we’re out (the main culprit being ketchup). At first I could just tell him the restaurant had run out, but now he’s nearly four he knows full well I’m fibbing. I believe in everything in moderation, and tell myself that I’m doing better than most when we’re at home and therefore the odd “treat” of a small dollop of ketchup in a restaurant isn’t all bad. (I make my own!)

TFW: What have been the biggest challenges been? Henry himself, or other people?

TFS: The biggest challenge at the moment is kids parties! But I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let him be that kid in the corner who can only snack on natural popcorn. Actually, when he does get a free rein, he often leaves a piece of chocolate cake half-eaten. I suppose it’s just too sweet. I found the grandparents’ attitudes towards it the worst to begin with; I think it’s just their generation. However, even they have noticed a difference in his behaviour, and now they stick to his diet more and more each time they see him. I suppose they have realised what a different boy he is if they are stricter with it. In the beginning I had comments like “well, what can I give him to drink that’s a nice, poor thing, I feel terrible!” Erm… water is nice!

TFW: Has minimising sugar helped Henry? In what way?

TFS: I can’t tell you how much it’s helped. We literally noticed a difference from day one. The funny thing is how much it educated me! Henry and I used to start our day with a homemade smoothie of banana, frozen berries, spinach and flax seed. I thought I was being the best Mum in the world! But actually, I now realise that this wass one of the worst starts I could give him. I wondered why he was bouncing off the walls all morning. The biggest difference I notice is when he does have something sugary (his main triggers are squash, ketchup, beans, and chocolate icecream). I know when to make my excuses, get him away from wherever we are, and back to an environment where he can tear around!

TFW: Exactly what do you mean by minimising sugar? What do you see as sugar, and do you have any goals in terms of intake, or is it just to reduce it?

TFS: My aim is to reduce it as much as I can, in all forms… when it is within my control. I do allow Henry to have natural sugars in small quantities, but never pureed or in a juice form. I will make substitutes for refined sugars by using natural sugars such as bananas in cakes, cinnamon, agave and sometimes honey. My rationale is that, if I can “control” his sugar intake 80% of the time at home, then it doesn’t matter as much when he is around the bad stuff.

TFW: What has surprised you about this whole venture? Has it been easier or more difficult than you thought?

TFS: It’s got to be not realising how much sugar there was in things. I’m an educated person, but even I was unaware of where it was snuck in. I now choose full-fat rather than the “healthy choice” option (which tends to be padded out with sugar). Smoothies were an eye-opener. The fact that the sugar in smoothies is absorbed in a different way than eating the whole fruit. It’s been easier than I thought, as Henry was young when we started. But, even now he’s older and starting to ask for things, I can just tell him “no, that’s full of sugar, have this instead” and he’s fine. He’s even started to tell people himself that he doesn’t want it.

TFW: What are your top tips for other parents who want to minimise their children’s sugar intake?

TFS: Cinnamon to sweeten porridge and yoghurt has been great, especially as he likes to sprinkle it on and make patterns. I’ve gone back to a lot of the “baby” brands for biscuits etc: although they are sweetened with grape juice, that’s a lot better than refined sugar. The internet has hundreds of blogs, recipes, hints and tips from other parents that have gone sugar free, so it’s a lot easier than it would have been years ago. My top tip would be: cut sugar out yourself for a few weeks, and see the difference it makes to you. As a sugar addict, this has been my biggest learning curve. Monkey see, monkey do! If you don’t eat it, they won’t ask for it.

I’ll leave you with a pic of my nephew lying on my floor having a picnic of nuts, blueberries and oat cakes (if memory serves me correctly)

Reducing sugar intake (the pre-schooler edition) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

The Nephew Workout revisited

July 26, 2013

Remember The Nephew Workout?

(My, haven’t we both grown? LOL!)

Well that little baby is now nearly three, and he’s staying here with me for a few days whilst his Mum (my sister) and his Dad are at a wedding and enjoying some well-deserved couple time away. It’s the longest he’s ever stayed away from them (only ever one night previous to this).

So, I guess this is The Nephew Workout 2.0 It’s more of an endurance workout than the strength-based session in the post and video above πŸ˜‰

I’m 9 days out from a bodybuilding comp, and 5 days post-comp. I’m training hard, dieting harder and… well, I’m a prepping bodybuilder.

I thought it would be interesting (and perhaps helpful to any other bodybuilding Aunties out there – holler!) to note my dos and don’ts for this Nephew Workout (the endurance session), in the context of me being so close to a comp.


– Enjoy.
I promised myself (and, indirectly, my nephew) before he arrived that I would enjoy his company and enjoy our few days together. I love this boy (sorry what you hadn’t noticed?!) and he won’t be little forever. We’re going to have fun. So – when I’m training, I’m training. When I’m cooking, I’m cooking. That’s it. Everything else can wait. We’re going to enjoy each others company and have a good time.
– Make the most of the extra “energy output” (let’s not call it cardio). Yesterday, on a whim, we decided to go and hire a rowing boat on the canal out the back of my house. Um, yes, rowing a small boy in a shonky old boat for an hour (after training shoulders and back) was hard work. That’s cool. So in one hour I had fun, entertained my nephew and caned some kcals. Good-oh!
– Have a plan. I can’t imagine any bodybuilder a week out would not have a plan, but this is where it will really come into its own. I’ve printed out my diet/meal plans and put them in the kitchen. I don’t have time to faff about this weekend. If you haven’t got a plan, come up with one before the nephew arrives. Now is not the time to be wondering what you might have for lunch, or for realising that you forgot to get the chicken out of the freezer.
– Prep your meals in advance. I usually do this but not always. Well, now I really don’t have an option. I’m not going to be able to cook the nephew his dinner, round him and the dog up from the garden, and oversee him eating if I also have to be chopping and cooking my own food. Also, who knows when I might randomly be on a rowing boat at meal times! πŸ˜‰ I’m prepping all my food for the next day every single evening whilst nephew is here.
– Realise that small nephews just don’t mind, unless you do. I ate my mackerel and courgette out of a tupperware by the side of the canal in the middle of the afternoon – not lunch, not dinner. I briefly wondered if he might think I was strange. Nope, he just leaned over and said “and that’s your lunch”. He also doesn’t even seem to notice that I’m eating different things to him.

– Eat the nephew’s snacks.
My fridge has gone from one containing chicken, red meat, fish and green veg, to one containing all of the above + yoghurts, juice, berries, milk and cream cheese. My cupboards now contain gingerbread men, breadsticks, crackers, chocolate lollies and some kind of jelly wiggly-worm thing. Don’t let the presence of these newfangled food stuffs turn your head!
– Let the tiredness make you snappy. Yes, you’ll be more tired than usual (you know how sometimes in prep you are so tired you can’t bear the idea of climbing the stairs? Well, tough luck Auntie, cos someone’s up there shouting “um… Auntie Nic? I had a accident!”) It’s not the nephew’s fault you’re tired (it’s yours, you’re dieting for a comp and that was your decision).
– Weigh food in front of the nephew. I dunno, but it strikes me as wrong to let a little boy see you weighing broccoli. I mean, come on, it’s not normal is it, and a small child probably can’t understand why you’re doing it (many adults wouldn’t!) And I’m damned if I’m going to be responsible for creating any kind of food or body issues other than positive ones.
– Weigh self in front of nephew. I need to weigh in tomorrow for my coach. I’m not doing it til nephew has gone to his swimming lesson. See points above ^^^
– Stay up late watching Netflix. Go to bed.

The Nephew Workout revisited is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

The Nephew Workout

November 2, 2010

Once a month, I drive back to my hometown to look after my nephew for the day. Today we had a bit of a giggle shooting a “Workout Video”. If you, too, have a nephew (it would probably work just as well with a niece but I can’t comment personally on this), feel free to try it. However please note that it is complete silliness, I know my form is terrible and it’s not to be taken seriously! No nephews were harmed during the making of this video!

The Nephew Workout


Nephew Deadlift
Nephew Upright Row
Nephew Overhead Press
Nephew Press-up
Nephew Sit-up
(tricky to do a plank – will wait til he’s old enough to sit on my back πŸ˜‰ )

I did lunges and squats too but they were so rubbish I have banished them to the cutting-room floor.

Bonus extras:
– Note from my nephew’s Mum about the importance of athlete hydration at all times

– Post-workout interview with Nephew

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