Before Christmas we took part in the Change4Life Sugar Swaps campaign. I didn’t really know what to expect when we started. I like to think our diet is quite healthy overall. We don’t drink fizzy drinks or squash, don’t have many sweets or crisps and eat lots of fruit and vegetables. Our main sugary item is chocolate which I have almost every day ( the children less often ). I was curious as to what the sugar swaps would be and hopeful that we’d get some great tips and advice to make our diet even better. I tend to suffer from a lot of headaches and am sure my diet is at least partially responsible.
What was the challenge?
The challenge took place over a six week period where we recorded everything we ate for the first two weeks, then we were given sugar swaps to make for the following two weeks. The final two weeks we were back to normal again.
I talked the children through what we were going to do, knowing that lunchtimes night be difficult for them as we’d either have to put together a very healthy packed lunch or they would have to make a healthy dessert choice as part of their school dinner, which is quite a lot to ask of a 6 and 4 year old. I was also a little worried about getting enough calories into them without sugary snacks as all my children are very active and so do need some high energy foods to keep them going, I was especially concerned about my 6 year old who is quite a fussy eater and very slim to start with.
The first two weeks
Writing everything down that 5 people eat and drink is quite challenging and really made me think about the amount we eat, especially on the weekends or when out with friends.
Sugar Swaps – see list below
I have to admit, I wasn’t very happy with some of the swaps suggested to me and actually felt they made our diet more unhealthy. Part of the problem was that we didn’t have much to swap. We already drank plain water and didn’t eat sugary cereals, although we did put syrup on porridge. We often just have fruit instead of a sweet pudding as the norm, so our main swap was the children’s lunchtime snacks and I really struggled with what to give them as an alternative to a biscuit or cereal bar when they’d already had fruit as a morning snack and I needed to keep them full up for a busy afternoon at school.
As a general rule I avoid low sugar products as I don’t like my children eating artificial sweetener so didn’t want to use the low fat yoghurt option.
On a positive note I ate a lot less chocolate over the two weeks and it did lead to a lot of discussion with the children about ‘healthy choices’ leaving us all a lot more aware of what we eat.
The most difficult parts of the day for me is the time between the children eating and us eating and the latter part of the evening when the children are in bed. Those are the times when I tend to graze on bits of chocolate and biscuits, which I am now doing else thanks to the Sugar Swaps campaign.
The children didn’t seem to find the swaps too difficult and accepted very quickly that it was just for a short period of time. It was probably the lack of a sweet dessert after their main meal they they found the hardest and again we struggled to find something they could eat, especially when by that time of day they’d already eaten 2-3 pieces of fruit.
Changes we’ve kept
I have really tried to reduce the amount of milky coffees I drink and have instead swapped to herbal teas which I find gives me much more energy and less stomach aches. We’ve been eating a lot more tinned fruit which is less expensive that fresh fruit and seems to keep everyone happy as an after lunch or dinner pudding.
Our top tips for getting involved
Take a good look at your diet before starting and set yourself realistic goals. Sometimes easy swaps ( for example if you drink a lot of fizzy drinks ) can make a big difference, the only reason we struggled a little was because we didn’t have much to swap.
This year the Change4Life campaign is focussing on how parents can help their children eat less sugar by making simple changes to their diet at key points in the day. The Sugar Swaps campaign is ongoing till March so you’ve still got plenty of time to get involved
Families can register for their free Sugar Swaps packs for the duration of the campaign. The packs are filled with hints, tips, recipe suggestions and money off vouchers. Sign up to Change4Life here
Example Sugar Swaps
Sugary or fizzy drinks for water, lower fat milks or sugar free drinks
Sugary breakfast cereals for plain porridge or plain whole-wheat cereal.
Muffins, cakes etc for fruit or vegetable sticks.
Disclosure: This post is in association with Change4life and Netmums.