Parents often are reminded it’s not just the holiday season that presents our children [and ourselves] with sugary treats. The reality is that many year-round celebrations AND foods found in our pantries are accompanied by sugar. Sugar. And more sugar. It’s the added sugars in soda, cookies, cakes, and some fruit drinks that can make anyone reach for seconds or thirds and have a negative impact on our children’s taste buds [they don’t call it a “sweet tooth” for nothing]. These same foods also tend to also be high in calories and low in other valuable nutrients. Note: added sugars are the kinds put in foods during processing and manufacturing, not the natural kind found in fruit and dairy.
To help you navigate the fine line between acceptable sweets and a sugar-problem with your kids, I’ve put together a list of 5 ways to reduce your child’s sugar intake—- tested by Joey and Anthony. They’d likely protest at the title of this post but little do they know Mom has their best interest in mind.
5 Ways to Reduce Your Child’s Sugar Intake
1. Skip the sugary sweetened beverages. Soda, pop, and coke drinks are NOT found in our house. You can occasionally find juice in our fridge, but it’s a small bottle and the boys don’t even know it’s there [Mom craves cranberry juice when pregnant]. That doesn’t mean I haven’t given Joey Gingerale when he had an upset stomach, which is a ginger-flavored pop. I just know how hard it is for me to control the “just have a glass” of pop or coke of soda and I’m not sure I’ve seen “just a glass” sold in the grocery store.
2. Set a specific day or mealtime for dessert. Dessert is meant for Sunday dinner, but we do make exceptions. Lucky for my family’s sweet tooth, I am NOT into baking—and if you are, you can pretty much search for low sugar options for muffins, bars, etc. online. My Mom always has a baked good on Sunday that we’ll eat following dinner, so I consider that our sweet treat for the week. Again, that doesn’t mean if I see freshly baked brownies at the grocery store or a friend brings us chocolate chip cookies I’ll outlaw them. I’ll just freeze most and give my boys a serving. We now have fruit with dinner [and sometimes Joey’s is topped with sprinkles], so I consider this to be our weeknight dessert. My hope is that the once a week BIG time dessert helps to set the example for moderation.
3. Go 50/50 with some of your sugar favorites. I learned this trick from my friend Sally at Real Mom Nutrition, as she calls it going “halfsies.” This could look like using half plain yogurt + half flavored yogurt. Or half unsweetened O’s cereal + half sweetened O’s. We’ve also been doing this with chocolate milk… as our favorite brand is a little thicker than plain cow’s milk so it helps with texture as well.
4. Offer FRUIT— fresh or frozen, first. I’m big into offering choices these days. Long gone are the days of yes or no questions in this house [that’s a post for another day, as we are working on Joey’s speech], so when snack time hunger hits, I’ll offer up an option of X or Y fruit with some type of cereal. I’ve often been known to throw in a vegetable in the mix too. Which doesn’t go over so well… but I’m trying!
5. Lead by example. Gosh, this one is tough. Especially since this pregnancy I’m craving gummy worms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and peanut butter lathered on granola bars [that’s sugar overload]. To counteract these cravings, we have a lot of fresh and canned fruit in the house I’ve been snacking on, and offering to the boys when snack time hits. We also have some lower-in-sugar packaged snacks on hand, like unsalted pretzels, whole grain crackers, un-sweetened O’s cereals, and yes, the occasional box of animal crackers or graham crackers. I’ve also taken to prep lots of fresh cut veggies each week and put them in resealable plastic snack bags. So when the temptation for sugary sweets hits, I have an alternative to reach for! And the boys see me making a good decision… until they go to bed 😉Sugar and kids: Get the facts on how much is too much... and 5 easy ways to reduce it in their… Click To Tweet
A little sugar, particularly if it’s in a food that provides other important nutrients [like yogurt or whole grain cereal] isn’t going to tip the scale or send your child into a hyperactive sleep refusal. But leading by example and purchasing foods with little or no added sugars will hopefully help you and your family make smarter eating choices throughout the holiday season and beyond!
If you’re interested in seeing what recipes on my blog constitute as lower-in-sugar snacks or desserts, be sure to check out my new recipe index! While I can’t guarantee they are sugar-free [actually, I know they are not], they are my take on healthy homemade favorites with LESS sugar than store bought versions. OH and I guess there’s a 6th tip: read food labels. If you are reading a food label and want to know how much sugar in it, here’s a trick: 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon measurement. Curious as to how much sugar is recommended for your little one each day? Here’s the latest recommendation!
2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Sugar Limits for Kids
These sugar limits [10% of daily calories of less] do not apply to foods that naturally contain sugar, like milk or fruit, however they do apply to ADDED sugar, aka sugar that is added to a product during processing such as cookies, candy, soda, flavored yogurt, sweetened cereal.
|Age||Calories Per Day||Teaspoons Per Day|
While we aim to stay within these limits each day, I tend to look at our sugar intake in terms of the week. If we have a few birthday parties and Sunday dinner, well then I know we’ll be eating more sugar out and about, so when we are home I try to keep our intake in check. If we have no birthday parties and my Mom forgets dessert at Sunday dinner, well then we go with the flow and make up for it the following week! Just kidding… but you get where I’m going with this!
Some of my favorite posts regarding sugar and healthy living:
Sugar is Sugar is Sugar from Your Choice Nutrition
5 Easy Ways to Cut Sugar from Your Child’s Diet from Real Mom Nutrition
8 Ways to Reduce Your Kids Sugar Intake from Super Healthy Kids