Sugar, Children and Gluten Free Diet

I have always enjoyed baking, now one of the grandchildren needs to be gluten free (GF) I am experimenting with gluten free baking. My aim is to make delicious bakes that can be enjoyed by all the grandchildren, as well as the grown ups. I’m keen the GF child does not feel he is missing out, nor do I want the others to feel they are missing out.

I have discovered that sugar features largely in GF baking. Cook books inform that sugar is used in GF baking for various reasons including:

  • Adding Flavour,
  • Adding structure
  • Attracting and retaining moisture
  • Prolonging freshness

As well as adding sweetness as it does in traditional baking. In Linda Amendt’s book she specifically warns against reducing the amount of sugar in GF cakes.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a reduction in the intake of free sugars for both adults and children. Free sugars are described as including “monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates”.

The term free sugar is somewhat confusing and it is often referred to as added sugar and from now on I will use added sugar to mean free sugar.

For a child of 4-6 years old the maximum recommended daily intake of added sugar is 19 grams (5 teaspoons) – many day-to-day good contain lots of sugar, ranging from breakfast cereals, through pasta sauces and jam to cakes, and a can of fizzy drink can take a child over the daily limit.

In Victoria Hall’s excellent book she has a recipe for Party Rings biscuits. These biscuit rings are topped by royal icing and look delicious in the picture. The problem is the recipe is for 12-14 biscuits, with 100g sugar for the biscuits and 250g icing sugar for the icing – 350g in total – or 25g added sugar per biscuit. So my grandchildren aren’t getting these – there are other recipes in her book that they are getting…

Similarly Dove Farm have a recipe for GF cookies these use 75g sugar to make up to 30 cookies, which is about 3g of added sugar per biscuit. The trouble is the biscuits are quite small and very tasty so children would like a second one.

In the report WHO highlight: “Free sugars are different from intrinsic sugars found in whole fresh fruits and vegetables”, and point out there is no evidence of adverse health effects from consuming intrinsic sugars – while there is plenty of evidence that eating added sugars is harmful to health.

In the past I have tried to use ingredients like carrots, parsnips, apples, bananas and dried fruit in place of at least some added sugar. The sugar in dried fruit is classed as intrinsic, but various sources (such as the Conversation) warn that dried fruits have several times the sugar of their fresh counterparts, on the plus side they also have several times the vitamins and minerals.

So my aim is to learn to make delicious GF bakes, and to experiment with reducing the amount of added sugar, and record what works and what doesn’t.

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