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Tuffkid Nursery goes sugar-free to keep children healthy

02 March 2022

Giving up sugar is a major triumph. It’s the route to a healthy diet, an ideal weight and far less tooth decay. Tuffkid Nursery has banned all sugar with a view to getting very young children into healthy habits that, hopefully, will last a lifetime.

With fillings, extractions and childhood obesity at worrying levels, the decision to go sugar-free was a no-brainer for Nursery Head Janice Marriott. The nursery already had a firm grounding in healthy lifestyles following its Bronze, Silver and Gold awards from the Mayor of London’s Healthy Early Years London programme, (HEYL).

Janice said: “Having seen the huge implications for children’s health and wellbeing as well as for oral health, we decided to make our nursery sugar-free. We wanted to instil healthy eating habits at a young age, with the hope that promoting the change now would help the children make good nutritional choices throughout their lives.”

Considering that food is a major part of the nursery’s daily routine, the change was significant. Biscuits and sweets were already banned at the nursery, but parents, invited to get involved, still needed to rethink the snacks and lunchtime treats children routinely took in to eat, while staff reviewed the ingredients of the traditional recipes children enjoyed cooking.

The children were encouraged not to bring in flavoured yoghurts or dried fruit, such as raisins, which have a high sugar content and stick to the teeth. Janice said: “At the beginning, it was very hard for some parents to accept that foods have hidden sugars. Fruit yoghurts have a high sugar content, but by looking at the ingredients, it becomes easy to identify. This year, we decided to stop parents from sending in drinks. Even cartons of pure apple or orange juice have a high concentration of fruit sugar, which is detrimental to teeth and overall health.

“Oral health sessions taught parents about tooth brushing and regular trips to the dentist and these messages were reinforced in the nursery’s weekly newsletter,” she added.

Recognising that snack and break times were social occasions, nursery staff talked to the children about eating healthily and introduced them to the idea of making better choices, like fresh fruit, vegetables, crackers and pretzels.

“Through our promotion of healthy eating in tandem with plenty of physical activity we are helping the children to form the basis of a healthy lifestyle,” Janice said.

Cooking and baking in the nursery have been transformed. Once there were iced biscuits to celebrate birthdays, now the children mark the occasion with apple, carrot, banana or courgette muffins – which do need honey, but just a little. A small amount of honey is added to challah dough in place of sugar.

These days the children are offered milk or water to drink, which they pour for themselves. “This is a fun challenge for little ones and they really enjoy taking part. On Fridays, all children take home a bottle of milk and this really encourages good habits,” she said.

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