Is it possible for kids to live without sugary treats and still be happy or is sugar the source of their happiness? Check the below tips on how to limit your kid’s sugar intake, raising happy & healthy kids.
How to identify sugars in foods
When we talk of sugar, you are probably only thinking of table sugar. In fact, when most people want to cut sugar, they only eliminate table sugar. While this is a step in the right direction, it will only make a small dent in your kids’ sugar consumption if they continue to consume “hidden” sugars in foods. Juice packs for instance, tend to have a lot of sugar. But it is the go-to drink for most parents when their kids are thirsty. Whatever happened to drinking water when thirsty?
An article on Huffington post reveals that drinks like juices, smoothies and punches have sugar quantities ranging anywhere from 21 grams to 57 grams. Knowing how juices work, you or your kid won’t stop at one glass. Juices are not as filling as eating the whole fruit. So, after 2 glasses (or more, by day’s end), your kid will have consumed way more sugar than is allowed for his/her weight and age.
As we have mentioned in previous posts, “sugar-free” doesn’t mean there is no sugar in a food. To recognize added sugars in foods, look for words like: syrup, fructose, maltose, sucrose and dextrose. “Concentrate” and “other added ingredients” are also common words on packaged juices.
How to limit your kid’s sugar intake
We can achieve this in a slow, structured and methodical way. While it may be possible for an adult to quit their sugar habit “cold-turkey”, unless you want temper tantrums 24-7, I don’t recommend this approach with young kids. Wean them off sugar gradually. Remember, the goal is to reform their entire diet by restructuring what they eat.
1. Rethink your reward system
As parents, we want our kids to be happy. In a world where rewards for kids are synonymous with sweet treats, you may feel as though you are being unfair to your kid by denying them sugary food. When you deny your kids sugary foods, those around you may tell you, “Come on. Let her eat the sweet. Let her enjoy herself.” You may also be guilty of propagating this kind of thinking. You may at one time or the other have said to your kid: “If you stop crying, I will give you candy.” When you give your kids sugary treats as a reward, you create an association between sweets and good behavior.
The only way out of this trap is to reward your kids with non-food items. For instance, if your kid has been asking for a certain action figure, let him or her earn it as a reward for doing something good.
2. Don’t indulge your kid’s sweet tooth at breakfast
After a whole night’s “fast”, we usually wake up hungry. This makes us more likely to indulge our sweet tooth during breakfast. Most breakfast foods meant for kids are super-sweet, so if you aren’t watching what your kids eat, one way or another, their first injection of energy will be sugar-loaded.
What should you do? Ditch all the packs of kiddie cereal in your pantry, along with flavored yogurt, juice packs and flavored milk. Instead:
- Buy plain yoghurt and flavor it with fruits or a tea spoon of honey.
- Add more protein to their breakfast, such as eggs. If your kids won’t eat eggs, bake them in muffin tins.
- Don’t add jam or syrups to bread. Go with unsweetened honey, peanut butter or butter.
- Serve oats in place of sweetened cold cereals. Add in some honey, fresh or dried fruit to sweeten.
3. Watch what you serve for dessert
Ice cream, chocolate, cupcakes…kids love dessert. But desserts also happen to be the unhealthiest foods invented by man. Few people have managed to get their kids off the dessert habit. One such successful attempt was by Ellyn Satter, a dietitian and author of several books about kids’ diet. Here is a summary of her approach:
- Keep dessert portions small
- Allow kids to put their dessert on their dinner plate, along with all the other foods on the table.
The idea was to diminish the importance surrounding dessert. When their cookie or muffin is on the plate, it is just like any other food. Those who have tried this approach find that kids lose interest in the dessert, or, they eat the dessert along with the other food items.
- As well, serve fruit as dessert. You can top it up with home-made whipped cream.
What about replacing the sugary dessert with a keto dessert, baked with Erythritol as a replacement of sugar? Keto desserts are prepared with almond or coconut flour, which makes them a much healthier choice for the entire family to enjoy.
4. Clean out your pantry
If you have ketchup, mayo, salad dressing, soy sauce, cereal, cookies, candy bars, beef jerky (some brands), then your pantry is literally flooding in added sugar. You can buy healthier food options by doing the following:
- Buy foods that don’t have added sugars.
- Make your own sauces like pesto for your pasta or chicken, and vinaigrette for your salads.
- For snacks, cut up an apple or banana. If you don’t have the time, go for dried fruit but watch the portions.
- If you have to give your kids packaged snacks, share among them so that everyone eats a small portion.
- Avoid soda at all costs.
- Go for freshly squeezed juices. On days when you cannot make fresh juice, give them water.
- Encourage kids to drink water throughout the day instead of juice.
- Carry some healthy snacks for your kids. If you don’t do this, you will have to buy fatty, salty and sugary snacks and drinks.
Implementing all the tips shared above can feel like a lot to take on especially if you have to juggle work and taking care of your kids. You don’t have to do them all at once. Target one area per week. For instance, start with breakfast and be consistent for a week before moving on to the other areas. After a few weeks, your kids will start getting used to their new meal options. The biggest payoff for all this will be in how healthy and energized your kids will be.
And remember, you can give your kids brownies or muffins or cookies, as long as you make all these without the sugar and gluten. There are loads of healthier replacements for kids, where you make sweet treats with erythritol, cannellini beans, among other healthier ingredients.