A Sugary Complaint

Hello All,

Thank you for tuning in again on my quest to make the next generation healthier and happy. In this little chat I share with you an email I wrote to my local school regarding lollipop rewards for great maths work. I’m all for rewards but how can you be successful in keeping your childs sugar intake down when they are rewarded with sugar? Do you take the reward away despite their excellent efforts and demotivate them or let them chuppa chup away and damn their health to the gutter?

It’s not easy trying to do the right thing as a parent and we need schools to support a childs health, so here’s what I did.
I wrote an email with the facts. The outcome? The children no longer have a Haribo Hurray but a tracker point that goes towards their certificate.

If your school is doing something similar then feel free to use parts of my email to send to your school. Get your school on your side of health for a healthier, happier next generation!

Dear ALL Teachers,

I hope this email finds you well. Firstly, thank you for all your hard work so far this year. The enthusiasm of the teachers shines

through and my children are bouncing into school every morning. It is evident that the school is working hard to make all children happy and successful at school.

You may have noticed however, that the title of this email is a complaint. Although in essence it is, I know that it is on good faith and maybe a gap in knowledge has led to this situation. One that I hope to shed some light on and provide a solution to the objection I have.

My concern surrounds the reward system that is in place particularly for Rockstar Maths in year 2 and although after speaking to the teacher I am aware it is not a whole school initiative, I feel it important to address all teaching staff as I am sure it happens in other years as well at some stage.

Since the start of school my son has received 4 sweets for completing 4 stages of Rockstar Maths. This comprised of one Bloxx sweet and three chuppa chup lollipops. Obviously, I am very proud that my son is doing well and it is fantastic you reward pupils for hard work but it is not great when that reward is detrimental to their health.

I am a parent of two children at the school who cares deeply about their health but my profession (Health & Fitness Advisor) has led me to care about all children’s health and have knowledge in this subject matter. So, I would like to outline why I am concerned and would like to work with you to come to a solution.

A healthy diet is one that is low in free (added) sugar and high on whole natural foods (not processed – a processed food is one that has been tampered with in some way eg white pasta compared to brown pasta). Currently, there is an epidemic where children are being given too much sugar in their diet. This is contributing to chronic disease (high blood pressure, cholesterol, depression, diabetes, obesity, auto-immune diseases and further problems later in life) and the onset of chronic disease is occurring much earlier in life than it has in the past. This is mainly due to children having too much free or added sugar in their diet. This has also been found to affect their mood and learning capacity through mechanisms such as gut health that is the height of research at the moment.

To clarify: sugars are divided into two groups “free” and “intrinsic”. It is the free sugars that we need to reduce. A free sugar is any added sugar to a meal or a sugar that does not hold any nutritional value. These free sugars are often hidden in our cereals and other pre-packaged foods. They can also come in the guise of health alternatives such as honey and agave nectar. Intrinsic sugars are naturally found in fruits and vegetables and come packaged with the foods fibre, vitamins and minerals so they are good for us.

The maximum daily intake for free sugar according to the Governments Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) is 19g (5 teaspoons) for children aged 4-6years and 24g (6 teaspoons) for children aged 7-10 years.

To illustrate how easy it is for a child to have too much free sugar in their diet I have given a realistic but probably conservative example of a child’s daily food intake.



Amount / Serving

Sugar (g)

Breakfast. Shreddies

40g / 1


Snack at school: Fruit

1 -2 

0 (as all sugars here are intrinsic)

Lunch. Tuna and sweet corn baguette. Followed by custard

1/3 baton. 1 serving of custard

3.2g / 11.4g

Snack after school ( I have based this on what I see many children get at the school gates) Small ice cream with no flake. OR mini bag haribo

Small cone/  mini bag

20g OR 7.5g

Dinner: 4 fish fingers, 2 waffles, broccoli and carrots. Yoghurt such as petit filous

Petit filous = 85g pot

1.8g / 0.4g / 8.4g

Reward for Rockstar maths

1 full sized chuppa chup




46 – 58.5g


The total here is up to 39.5g of free sugar (10 teaspoons of sugar) over a child’s recommended daily allowance. And this was without many snacks or any drinks. Pretty mind blowing huh?

You may have noticed that the lunch example I have given was taken from the schools lunch menu. Most days a sponge or muffin is for pudding. I did not include this as was unsure of quantities or ingredients. However, a typical sponge serving or something like marble cake can contain between 15 – 31g of sugar. So some days this can be added to the total.

So, as you can see even when a parent is trying to give limited treats it is likely a child is already exceeding their sugar intake. Do we really want the schools reward system adding to this? (And note that the lollipop is nearly half the recommended daily allowance of free sugar!)

I feel very strongly that this needs to change for all children. We need to educate that not every day is a treat day and that rewards do not have to be sweets. I am very conscious that providing sweets is a small, quick applause to good work along with being financially feasible. So below I have tried to come up with some alternatives that also meet this criteria. I have also questioned other parents whose children go to different schools in the UK to see what their reward system comprises of to formulate some ideas (please note that not one other school uses sweets or lollipops to achieve this):

  • Stickers – children love stickers and this may just be enough
  • Sticker chart / book where if they receive so many stickers they receive extra 5 mins playtime or time on the ipad
  • Points to add to the trackers or mini points to total to a tracker point (eg 5 mini tracker points = 1 tracker)
  • House points or mini house points
  • A gift: this could range from a small toy or even some seeds where they can grow a plant in class to show everybody.
  • A glitter / super hero chair where all the children congratulate them for their achievements.
    Pieces to a toy that they build. If they get through all of the work, they get more pieces to build.
  • A small box of raisins (naturally occurring intrinsic sugars)


I am sure there are many alternatives that I haven’t thought of. But I hope the above gets the ball rolling.

I feel the school could do so much in providing a healthy environment to our children. There are many ways and changes that can achieve this but this is the first stop.

So, ultimately the desired outcome of this is to initiate a policy of no sweets for rewards.

I am more than willing to meet with any teacher to discuss this further if you feel necessary or want to know more. I believe we could make this school even more outstanding by advocating healthy alternatives to our children, educating them and setting them up for a long, healthy and happy life.

I realise this was a long email (it took a while to write) so I appreciate your time in reading this through.

Many kind regards