Shane Watson: Let's hit sugar for six



Becoming a dad three years ago was the best day of my life. Nothing is more important to me than my kids.

But my wife Lee and I were horrified to learn about the health effects of poor food choices on Aussie kids.

It’s a sad fact that too much added sugar is wrecking the health of younger generations. Type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure are all on the rise. Worse still, these adult diseases are being seen in younger and younger Australians.

Once kids have these problems, it’s much harder to get rid of them and go on to live a healthy life. Sadly, unhealthy kids tend to become unhealthy adults.

Shockingly, this current generation of Aussie kids is on track to live shorter lives than their parents.

We all know Australia punches above its weight in cricketing terms. I’m honoured to have been a part of our proud cricketing tradition. Wearing the baggy green and representing my country has been a source of huge pride for me.

But imagine a future where a third of our kids are overweight or obese? That’s the prediction for 2025 if we do nothing. Australia has a reputation for being an active and healthy country, with a proud sporting legacy, but this could be at risk if we don’t act to protect our kids.

Have you noticed how sugar is everywhere? Our kids can’t escape it.

Lollies at the checkout. Our school canteens stocking sugary drinks and food. Endless sweet treats from well meaning family and friends. What used to be a special treat when I was a kid is now part of everyday life.

When I was a boy at cricket training, we’d look forward to the orange quarters in the breaks. These days you’re just as likely to see lollies or sugary drinks being given out at half time.

Processed food wasn’t so common either in my day. We ate a lot more meals cooked from scratch and a lot less sugar-laden pre-prepared meals and sauces.

As parents, Lee and I know it’s not always easy to ensure healthy options for our kids. We have to work really hard to avoid too much added sugar for our kids, thinking carefully about what we buy and how we eat as a family.

Looking at my 3 year old, Will, I’m absolutely determined to do everything I can so that he will not suffer from sugar related health problems like being an unhealthy weight or type 2 diabetes.

Our little Matilda is just 17 months old. Damage to her health from a poor diet in childhood could last her whole life long.

That’s why Lee and I are passionate about keeping their added sugar consumption to healthy levels. Experts say kids shouldn’t consume more than around 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day.

This is urgent. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming a Dad, it’s that time doesn’t stand still. Kids grow up in the blink of an eye, and it’s up to us whether they grow up eating the right foods or too much of the wrong ones.

We need to push back on sugar being the default option for kids, the treat we reach for when we’re too busy to give what our kids really want: our time and affection.

All kids crave attention and quality time with their parents. That’s what we should be giving them, instead of reaching for a sweet treat to make up for being busy all the time.

You don’t have to be a cricketer or athlete for your kids to love getting active with you. Just kicking a ball in the backyard with Mum or Dad, a family trip to the pool – that’s the kind of treat young kids love. Better still, it sets them up for a lifetime of healthy habits.

As responsible parents and role models for our kids, we need to act now. We can’t just ignore the worst health crisis in a generation. It’s up to us not to allow sugary options to be the norm for our kids as they grow up.

Educate yourself so you can protect your kids. Find out where the hidden sugars are in processed foods. Demand industry and government provide us with added sugar information on our food labels. Look at simple swaps you can make, like having fresh fruit for dessert instead of ice cream. Give your kids water instead of juice.

I know the Aussie fighting spirit. We’re up to the challenge of protecting our kids’ health from the Sugardemic. I urge all parents to join me in supporting SugarByHalf.

Because a life with half the added sugar is going to be a whole lot sweeter for our kids.

- By Shane Watson, Australian Cricketer,