Sweets can be a touchy subject, but it’s important to for parents to realise that it’s not just about weight gain. Sugar in any form isn’t healthy in excessive amounts in a child’s diet. What’s really difficult is that added sugars seem to be in literally everything. It can be really difficult to keep extra sugar out of your child’s diet.
A sugar is any concentrated sweetener that’s added to your child’s diet. These could include everything from the white stuff that we all think about, the infamous corn syrup, glucose syrup, fructose, sucrose, honey, molasses, and agave. Sugar in any form is adding calories that should be coming from nutritious sources. In other words, when children eat sugar they are missing out on the nutrition that they really need to grow and be healthy. When sugar enters the digestive tract, it is quickly processed by the body and goes into the bloodstream, causing a spike in blood sugar. That spike goes to every major organ system in the body, affecting everything from the brain to the kidneys to the muscles. It effectively causes a high, sending the body into overdrive. In children this can cause issues with focus, growth, and development.
So now that we know WHY it’s important to limit those empty calories, let’s go over some real-world ways to cut back on your child’s sugar intake!
- Fruit as dessert: Make fruit the star of your dessert! Fruit tarts and crumbles are easy to make and can be made with very little sugar. Let the amazing flavour of the fruit be the centre of attention.
- Sugar-free snacking: It’s absolutely essential that your kids eat something wholesome BEFORE you leave the house. If options like unsweetened trail mix or fresh fruit are in your child’s belly, they’ll be a lot less likely to ask for sweets when you’re out of the house.
- Replace sugar with fruit: This is especially easy to do at breakfast. Rather than sugar in the porridge, try strawberries; or a handful of blueberries in cold cereal instead of a sprinkle of sugar. Pancakes and waffles don’t need much syrup when topped with bananas or pineapple!
- Cut back on sweeteners in recipes: You might be surprised to know that you can simply omit large amounts of sugar from recipes and find that they’re still delicious. Try cutting back by ⅙ at first, then gradually keep cutting until half of the sugar is gone. A great option in muffins, breads, and cakes.
- Eat whole foods as much as possible: Try to stay away from prepackaged foods as much as you can. This is hard! Life can get hectic, and it often seems like food is the last thing on the list. But keep in mind the reasons that you’re eating well, and realise that it will have a lasting impact on your child’s health. When in doubt, look for products that have fewer than five ingredients.