Blog Post

Sugar and Sugary Snacks for Little Ones

sugar lumps

With sugar and sugary drinks featuring in the news so much this week, here are some thoughts on the sugar debate and some tips and advice on how to keep sugar levels under control.   Whilst fizzy drinks are a key player in this debate, and have been the focus of this week’s publicity, there are a number of other culprits which are more relevant to little ones.

Awareness of the impact of sugar on babies and toddlers – both in terms of their teeth and bodyweight has grown significantly over the last few years.   When Sam (now 12) was little, diluted fruit juice, raisins and flavoured rice cakes were snacks he ate on a regular basis. They felt healthy and were certainly marketed as such.    On many occasions, Sam would be handed a little box of raisins or flavoured rice cakes to keep him quiet whilst we were out shopping or to keep him going until lunch or tea time.  He was such an active little boy, there was no chance of him getting fat and luckily his teeth didn’t suffer as a result.  Some of my friends weren’t so lucky and their little ones needed fillings in their milk teeth.

Despite all the advice and our good intentions, sugar is all around us and, whilst we can carefully monitor the diets of our very little ones, as soon as children get a little older they will be exposed to sugar.  Unfortunately, sugary snacks do taste delicious to most people so helping our children learn to manage their behaviour in relation to sugar from an early age is really important.  I really believe children should be allowed sugary treats sometimes, allowing a little in moderation will, I feel, help them grow up with a balanced approach to food, rather than encouraging food fads.  I would also much prefer them to be eating natural sugar occasionally rather than products flavoured with some of the many artificial sweeteners available nowadays.

Here are some ideas and tips I’ve picked from articles I’ve read over the last few years to help keep the sugar under control:

Fruit Juice

orange juiceGenerally viewed as a healthy drink, packed with vitamin C and other nutritional goodies – fruit juice  is packed full of sugar.  Whilst the whole fruit is good for our children (lots of vitamins, antioxidants and fibre), the processing of  fruit to turn it into fruit juice increases the sugar and teeth damaging acid content.

Water and milk are the healthiest options but some children just don’t like either of these and fruit juice is viewed as the next best option.  If offering your child fruit juice, here are some guidelines:

  • Always dilute the fruit juice – for younger babies this should be 10 parts water to 1 part fruit juice.  From the age of 2, this ratio can be reduced – although it’s still a good idea to keep diluting fruit juice – at least one part to two parts water.
  • If your child is used to drinking fruit juice undiluted, start by diluting the juice just a little bit so they are unlikely to notice.  As they get used to the new taste, you can dilute a little more.
  • Serve fruit juice (diluted) at meals.  This reduces the chance of tooth decay as the acid will get mixed with other foods and has less chance to damage the teeth.
  • Offer fruit juice in an open cup or through a straw – never in a bottle.  This way the fruit sugars have less direct contact with the teeth


Some breakfast cereals are major culprits on the sugar front – with even some of the ‘healthier’ cereals having a high sugar content.  It’s worth double checking the sugar content of favourite cereals.  If it feels too high to be eating regularly:

  • Offer alternatives or limit the occasions when they are allowed it
    • Weekends only, every other day, holidays
  • Mix with another healthier cereal so the sugar content is not as high
  • If they really won’t eat healthier cereals, offer other options such as wholegrain toast, scrambled eggs or boiled eggs and soldiers etc.

Cleaning teeth straight after breakfast when sweet cereals have been eaten can also lead to problems.  Janet Clarke from the British Dental Association explains ‘while regular brushing is essential, you should avoid it within 30 minutes of eating sweet foods as it increases the acid erosion on teeth’

Dried Fruit

Raisins are such a great little snack for toddlers – packed full of nutrients and the process of taking the raisins out of the little box is not only good for hand / eye coordination but also keeps little ones busy for a while!   Snacks like this don’t need to be completely excluded from your little one’s diet – we just need to think about when to offer them

  • As a snack immediately after mealtimes when the extra saliva from the meal helps protect teeth from acid attacks
  • Serving the snack in one sitting – rather than letting your child graze over a long period – this is when sugars and acids do most damage
  • Offering something alkaline such as cheese afterwards which helps neutralise the bacteria which cause decay.  This is something I did for Florence – she was allowed her raisins (which kept her quiet for a few minutes and gave me a welcome few minutes of peace!) and was then given a chunk of cheese.  This not only reassured me her teeth were not being damaged, but also improved the quality of the snack and filled her up for a little longer.

Here are some alternative healthy, less sugary snack ideas:

  • vegetablesCubes of cheese
  • Slices of apple
  • Breadsticks – with or without healthy dips such as houmous, soft cheese
  • Plain popcorn
  • Oatcakes / pitta bread – either plain or with dips / soft cheese
  • Raw vegetables
  • Toast / Sandwiches – made at home with savoury fillings

As always our tunic bibs and bibs can help keep little ones clean when at home or out and about and our splash mats which can also double up as mini table cloths or picnic mats can help manage the mess at snack time when at home.

Leave a Reply

Related Posts

Messy Mealtimes – Eating Outdoors in the Summer

Summer is a great time to let little ones get a little bit messier

fathers day craft
5 Fun Father’s Day Craft Ideas

Father’s Day is coming up soon – on June 16th this year.  Here are

10 Tips For Happy Weaning

There is sooo much information available now for weaning little ones – it can

easter tree
Easter Craft Ideas for Little Ones

Hot on the heels of Mother’s Day, comes Easter – another great opportunity for

Mother's Day heart print
Mother’s Day Craft Ideas

Mother’s Day is fast approaching (next weekend Dads!)… One thing that always goes down

messy me messy eating
Getting started with weaning – the different approaches explained

Like every aspect of raising a child, there are different ways to approach weaning.

Ideas for Pancake Day fun

I love Pancake Day – I have very happy memories of it as a

cooking with toddlers baking box
Cooking with Toddlers – 10 Fun and EASY Ideas

Cooking with toddlers can be fun.  It can also be stressful, chaotic and very

Valentine’s Day Crafts

Looking for some Valentine’s Day craft and baking inspiration for toddlers? Here’s our round up

choosing high chair
High Chairs – our tips for choosing the right one for you

There are hundreds of different high chairs available for weaning nowadays – with so

navy mat
Craft & Baking Ideas for Toddlers – January

January can be a difficult month with toddlers – the cold, short days make

ikea cushion and mat
Weaning little ones over Christmas

Whether you’re at home or away visiting friends and family, here are a few

Autumn Messy Play Ideas

It’s a beautiful, crisp, sunny autumnal day here at Messy Me HQ, which has

small business happy dance
My highs and lows of running a business

There are many mums out there successfully running their own businesses around their families.

picnic mat
9 ideas for summer fun with toddlers

We’ve had some gorgeous sunny days here at  Messy Me HQ, which has inspired

fathers day
Father’s Day Craft Inspiration with Messy Me

Father’s Day is coming up soon – on Sunday June 17th… Surprise Dad this Father’s

outdoor play mat
10 uses for our Messy Mats

A recent testimonial about our Messy Mats said “You don’t need to use the mat

navy mat baking
Our 9 Tips and Tricks for Happy Cooking with Kids

Cooking with Kids – Part II Last week, we talked about all the benefits of

7 reasons why it’s great to cook with your children

Cooking with children… Just the words can often conjure up a variety of different images

tunic bib and oilcloth by the metre
Home Made Easter Cards Ideas

With Easter fast approaching, we thought we’d share some ideas for home made Easter

Mother's Day craft
Mother’s Day Craft Ideas with Messy Me

Mother’s Day is fast approaching – often sending Dads and Husbands into a panic

Valentine’s Day Biscuits

Here’s a lovely recipe for delicious biscuits – with a Valentine’s Day theme –

tunic bib
Making pizzas with little ones

Pizza Fun with Messy MeIt’s National Pizza Day on Friday – which sounds like

ikea cushion insert
Why we love our new Mini Cushions for the Ikea Antilop

Our new Mini Cushion Inserts – designed for the Ikea Antilop are the most

ikea antilop cushion pastel roses
Common Weaning Myths

There is so much conflicting advice about weaning nowadays – so many different sources

navy oilcloth by the metre christmas
5 ways Messy Me can help this Christmas

Whilst Christmas with little ones can be a magical time – watching their little

Our Top Ten Items for Easy Weaning

Starting the weaning journey can be a daunting process – with so many different

Messy Trays & Sensory Boxes – Why We Love Them & Lots of Ideas

Here at Messy Me, we know how important it is to let little ones

Messy Play Ideas for Rainy Days

We don’t need convincing that mess is lots of fun and so important for

Seasonal Superfoods for Summer

Eating foods with are seasonally available is a great way to get the nutrients

Messy Summer Outdoor Fun

We love mess!  In fact, we firmly believe that more mess equals more fun

grey oilcloth
Five reasons why our Oilcloth makes a great tablecloth

One of the things I love about summer is the chances to eat outside

Rainy Day Ideas for Little Ones

Inspired by the rainy weather we’ve had here over half term, we’ve come up

Five things we love about our new High Chair Inserts

We’re really excited about our new High Chair Inserts which have arrived and are

Removing Stains from Oilcloth

What’s the best way to get rid of stains on oilcloth is a question

prima baby awards logo
High Chair Cushions & Clutch Bags shortlisted by Prima Baby Awards

prima baby awards logo We are thrilled that both our High Chair Cushions and Clutch

baby led weaning
Baby Led Weaning – Staying Relaxed in the Early Months

I have recently listened to a really great podcast interview with Tracey Murkett, co-author

mealtime mess
Managing the Mess at Mealtimes

Allowing children to be messy at mealtimes can send a shiver through even the

autumn leaves
Boosting your child’s immunity this Autumn

At this time of year – as the nights start drawing in, the days