“We are unsure of the max amounts as well, which may be problematic if these sweeteners are used consistently over a long period of time,” she told Global News.
Some sweeteners, she added, are 10 to 100 times sweeter than sugar.
“Regular consumption of these sweeteners results in children getting used to too much of a sweet flavour,” Qureshi said. “Instead, turn to naturally sweetened foods such as fruit.”
Canadian study shows the sour side of artificial sweeteners
Allidina says these sweeteners can be found in a variety of products children consume, including everything from Jell-O to some juices like Sunny D to ice cream. Other items include pop, cereal bars, yogurt and more.
She says anytime you see labels like “low sugar,” “reduced sugar” or “no sugar” should be a red flag.
“Technically, artificial sweeteners are not sugar and sometimes food companies mix them with real sugar to decrease the total sugar in the food.”
When your child loves sweetness
But some children just love sugar and sweet-flavoured food and often, parents struggle to remove it from their diet. And when sugar or sweetness is hidden, it can be even harder to monitor what your child eats.
“Navigating sugar with kids is tricky, but not impossible,” Allidina said.
“Skip the artificial stuff — especially for kids. We get the sweetness but with 0 calories, which can lead to more sugar cravings to fill the void.”
Parents should also focus on introducing whole foods without packaging or wrappers.
“These foods include, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and lean protein as much as possible.”
And besides carefully reading labels, look at the ingredient list.
“Try to stay clear of foods that have sugar listed as the first three ingredients – sugar has many names,” Allidina continued. “If these foods are your kid’s favourite, you can still offer it but less frequently.”
When you can, be a role model yourself. “If your child sees you consuming soft drinks and sugary foods daily, then you need to change,” she stressed.
“Remember, kids learn by example. So make sure you are doing your part.”
Sometimes, though, you can’t escape sugar. Children end up consuming sugar at school or at birthday parties with friends. It’s important to look at a child’s diet overall, Allidina said.
“Start with simple swaps such as replacing or diluting juice for water or milk and cut back on the frequency of sugary treats.”