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Arla study finds kids are stunned by the hidden sugars in food

Kids consume 5,738 sugar cubes a year, yet kids’ preference for sugary snacks is often an assumption, and kids do actually enjoy more simple and natural foods just as much, according to a new Arla Explorers study.

The study, which included new research and a behavioural experiment[i], was led by Arla Explorers to launch its new range of kid’s reduced sugar* yogurts. The experiment saw children aged 6-10 complete a series of tasks to find out their true preferences when it came to snacking. Simple foods such as strawberry, apple and grapes came out on top when compared to more artificial flavours, with eight out of ten participants choosing healthier snacks when given the choice.

The Arla Explorers research[ii], which polled 2000 parents and children, found that despite children enjoying healthier snacks, the average six to 11 year-old will consume 156 cans of fizzy drink, 208 bags of sweets and 260 biscuits every year – adding up to nearly 23,000g[iii] of sugar.

A typical youngster will also gobble down a shocking 260 packets of crisps, 208 chocolate bars, 260 bowls of sugary cereal, 208 glasses of fruit juice and an equal quantity (208) of cake slices each year. All of these delectable treats add up to around 63 grams of sugar a day, which is more than double of Public Health England’s[iv] daily recommended maximum intake of five-six sugar cubes (24g) per day.

The experiment highlighted that children also have no idea just how much sugar they’re consuming, significantly underestimating how many sugar cubes are in their everyday foods. Children were asked how much sugar was in a bowl of instant porridge, a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of fizzy pop. They guessed each item contains between two and six cubes of sugar – which averaged roughly HALF the amount of sugar found in the products. Children were also stunned to realise a fizzy drink contains as much as 10 cubes of sugar, with most believing it was five.

Rhiannon Lambert, registered nutritionist and spokesperson for Arla Explorers, said: “Providing kids with healthy and tasty snacks can sometimes be a minefield for parents who may often make the assumption that their child’s preference is for sugar. As we’ve seen from the Arla Explorers experiment and research, this isn’t always the case. Kids do enjoy simple and natural snacks, especially when given a choice so parents should be thinking about replacing some of the unhealthier snacks with foods high in fibre such as fresh fruit to reduce their overall sugar consumption. Something like the Arla Explorers range is great as it’s packed with naturally sourced ingredients** and contains reduced sugar, providing both kids and parents with a delicious and nourishing snacking option.”

In addition to children being unaware of their total sugar consumption, research showed parents were also in the dark, with over half of parents polled admitting to not being on top of their child’s sugar intake. In fact, parents reckon a child aged seven to 10 should consume a maximum of 20 grams of sugar a day, despite allowing their children to have more than triple this in a typical day. Part of this may be down to parents incentivising their children with sugary snacks, as a third of parents also admitted to giving their children sugary treats as a reward for good behaviour, and a quarter even stated that giving their kids sugary treats is “unavoidable”.

However, the experiment highlighted parents might not always need to use sugary snacks as an incentive, as children were tasked to pick a snack of their choice from two different tables; one that was full of nutritious and healthy foods, and one that contained less healthy snacks like chocolate and crisps, and nearly all 10 children chose a healthier option with strawberries, watermelon, apples and carrots being loaded on to plates.

Anjula Mutanda, TV Psychologist, said: “It’s really interesting to see children choosing healthier options over unhealthy as this isn’t something we as adults would always expect. Children often get a taste of sugar at a young age and this can encourage an appetite for the sweet stuff as they grow up. Providing a variety of foods that test children’s palette, including more simple and natural foods like fruit and popcorn, rather than crisps and chocolate, can often help children’s taste buds adjust and ensure they don’t always crave sugary snacks.”

This was further brought to life when participants were asked to taste food that contained a secret ingredient. Children were presented with what looked like a normal brownie to taste, in which all gave a big thumps up, yet were later amazed to find the secret natural ingredient was sweet potato.

Although 14 per cent of parents admitted to jumping to the conclusion that sweets and goodies are what their children prefer, parents are genuinely concerned at just how much sugar their child is consuming, even when with family, as research revealed that a third of parents worry about the number of goodies their children receive when with their grandparents.

Despite this concern, children are more aware of the effects of sugar than we perhaps think, with over half of children surveyed admitted that they know too much sugar is unhealthy and two-thirds agreed sugar was damaging for their teeth. When it comes to choosing foods, two-fifths of children place emphasis on the smell and over a quarter will opt for healthier snacks because they know it’s good for them.

Holly Twiss, Arla UK spokesperson for Explorers, added: “Kids snacks should be nutritious and fun, which is why we launched our new range of Arla Explorers yogurts. Each product contains naturally sourced ingredients with reduced sugar and encourages children to discover a more simple and natural taste, helping to bridge the gap between what parents feel their children should eat, and what children want.”

Arla Explorers is available now at Tesco, Morrisons and Asda. To watch the full experiment and find out more about the range, head over to


[i] Arla Explorers experiment conducted with 10 children aged 6-10

[ii] Commissioned research polling 1000 parents and 1000 children aged 6-11 via OnePoll

[iii] 22,952g g equivalent to 5,738 sugar cubes

[iv] Based on Public Health England’s recommended maximum daily intake of 5 cubes (19g) for a 4-6 year old, and 6 cubes (24g) for 7-10 year old - -

*30 per cent reduced sugar compared to other products on the market

**Contains only naturally sourced ingredients. Protein is needed for the growth and maintenance of muscle mass

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