Parents are usually cautious about the amount of sugar in their children’s diet. Artificial sweeteners are an excellent alternative to normal sugar. Dietitians and nutritionists claim that artificial sweeteners, when used in moderation, are the best alternatives to normal sugar for kids as they don’t cause cavities, add calories and are the finest choice for children with diabetes. The website www.firsteatright.com has a list of diabetes-friendly foods.
Don’t go by the myth that artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharine, neotame, acesulfame-K and sucralose cause birth defects, cancer or behavioral problems. These sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar and hence, only tiny amounts are needed to sweeten the food to which they are added. The government makes a thorough check on the below mentioned items before giving a green signal to any sweetener:
- Method of preparation
- The foods to which it would be added
- The amount that would be consumed by an average person
- The potential harmful effects to a person’s health
After checking the list above, the government sets a maximum limit on the amount that can be consumed by a person based on his/her body weight. This limit is multiple times greater than the amount that would be consumed by an average child. For example, an 18 kg child would need to consume 24 packets of aspartame or drink four 340-ml cans of diet soda every day to reach this level.
Kids with phenylketonuria (or PKU) are warned to never consume aspartame as these children cannot metabolize phenylalanine, an amino acid in aspartame.
There is no worry until your child indulges occasionally in artificially sweetened foods. But never stock your fridge with artificially sweetened foods such as sugar free ice cream and fruit flavored drinks that are not-so nutritious as they simply bring in empty calories. Try to replace these with naturally sweetened ingredients to satisfy your child’s sweet tooth. Go for fresh berries with low-fat yogurt, sliced bananas on a whole grain waffle or mix chopped pears along with a steaming bowl of oatmeal.