Plenty of kids love sugar. Most parents don’t need to be told that. Unfortunately, most parents also don’t need to be told that allowing a child to indulge their sweet tooth all the time simply isn’t good for their health in the long run.
You may be able to relate. If so, don’t worry. There are plenty of steps you can take to limit your child’s sugar cravings. Although it may take time to achieve ideal results, if you follow these tips, you’ll eventually help your child make healthier eating choices on a routine basis.
Start By Reducing YOUR Cravings
What habits are your kids seeing? Are you telling them no to sugar and then munching on your afternoon chocolate? Do they find your secret candy stash or see you getting into it when you think they aren't looking? Kids see and learn from our example. So if you are indulging, kids are going to see you indulging even if you think you are hiding it. And kids pick up on it and model that behavior. So before getting upset at the kids, make sure you're habits are modeling what you want them to do. And if you have a problem with sugar, sit the kids and you down and talk about the effects of too much sugar and let them know you've decided that you are all going to decrease your sugar intake. There is nothing wrong with making decreasing sugar a family team effort.
Give Kids the Right Sugar
Don’t make the mistake of assuming all sugar is bad. Some sugars actually play a crucial role in a healthy diet.
Primarily, you want to limit your child’s consumption of refined sugars. These are typically sugars that are added to a product to make it taste more appealing for children. Natural sugars, such as those found in fruit, are much better for everyone.
Use this knowledge to your advantage. When you go to the grocery store, focus on buying more fruit and fewer snacks with refined sugars. When your children request snacks, serve fruit more often. Their tastes will eventually adapt. There’s even a good chance they’ll come to prefer fruit over other treats!
Know When to Serve Fruit
Before moving forward, it’s important to point out that you shouldn’t always serve certain fruits. A piece of fruit is a healthy option if it’s in season. If you serve your child fruit that’s out of season, their brain and body may interpret it as a signal to get ready for winter.
It’s also of course a good idea to coordinate with your child’s pediatrician. Ask them how much sugar your child should eat in a day, and make an effort not to exceed this limit whenever possible.
Get Kids Off High Fructose Corn Syrup
Sugar unfortunately hides in many foods and beverages that people don’t naturally assume to be abundant in sugar. It often does so in the form of high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is found in many sodas, juices, sports beverages, and processed foods. The problem is, consuming too much high fructose corn syrup puts a child at risk of developing such health conditions as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The simplest way to guard against this is to check the ingredients list before you purchase any item of food or beverage. The fewer items with high fructose corn syrup in the house, the less likely your child will develop a taste for it.
There is a good argument for increasing protein in your child's diet. If a child is craving salt and sugar and carbs, look and made sure that they are getting enough protein and other vital nutrients. Increasing protein is really important as it will keep kids feeling fuller longer and blood sugar levels more even to avoid the carb/sugar highs and lows.
Make Sure Your Kids Feel Included
One of the hardest things is those inevitable birthday parties, school class parties and weekly dessert night traditions. As a kid growing up in a household with parents who eliminated almost everything it was really tough when it came to those events. I stuck out or I just didn't eat what the other kids ate. Now that I have food allergies, it's worse! I learned instead of eliminating everything, that providing treats and things that the kids could enjoy that looked like what other kids were having made it a lot easier for them. Our homemade pixie sticks are always a hit with kids and much healthier than regular pixie sticks. I've also fallen in love lately with Smart Sweets. At only 80 calories a bag, 4 grams of sugar and naturally sweetened and dyed it's been a good alternative and helps kids feel like they aren't being excluded.
Once more, just remember that weaning a child who loves sugar off their favorite treats isn’t something you should expect to accomplish over night. However, it is an important goal. These tips will help you achieve it.
Image Credit: SpendWithPennies.com, SmartSweets.com, Huffpost.com, Daily Mail