Are you worried about your child’s sugar intake? If so, you’re not alone. Lots of kids consume more than the recommended amount, and it’s often hidden in foods many people think are healthy. It’s not always easy, but helping kids cut back on their sugar consumption will improve their behavior, health, and overall well-being.

What Is Added Sugar?

A mother and her two children shopping in the fresh fruits section of their local grocery store.

Image via Flickr by USDAgov

Sugar in food either occurs naturally or is added. Naturally occurring sugars are found in foods like milk and fruit and are necessary for your child’s growth and development. 

Added sugar is the one that’s problematic. Foods and beverages with added sugar have extra sugar or syrup added during processing. Added sugars have many different names, such as corn syrup, evaporated corn sweetener, dextrose, and sucrose, just to name a few.

Limit Juice

Limiting juice is a great place to start reducing your child’s sugar intake. While juice is a healthier option than soda most of the time, many of the juices that are marketed to kids contain large amounts of added sugar. 

If you want to continue serving your child juice, look for 100% fruit juice, and keep in mind that it has more sugar and less fiber per serving than whole fruit. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting juice to one small serving of 100% fruit juice a day. Infants under one year of age shouldn’t have any.

Offer Fruits and Vegetables

Did you know that children are born with a preference for sweet tastes and a natural dislike of bitter flavors? It’s a hardwired trait that typically sticks around until middle to late adolescence. This natural predisposition is one reason it can be difficult to get kids to eat a healthy, balanced diet. To counter your child’s natural inclination for sweets, try to offer fruits and veggies at every meal and for snacks. Experts say that kids sometimes need to try a new food 10-15 times before they’ll accept it, so don’t give up. Consistency is the key.      

Set a Good Example

Kids imitate the behavior of the people around them, so limit your sugar intake if you want your children to limit theirs. If they see you drinking soda with dinner or eating cookies for a snack, you might have a harder time cutting their sugar intake. Before you make changes to their diets, consider enlisting their help to change yours. Ask them for ideas, and let them see you following their suggestions. 

Create New Traditions

Many holiday and childhood traditions incorporate sugary snacks and drinks. From birthday cakes to Christmas cookies, to Valentine’s Day candy, it’s hard to think of a special occasion where sugar doesn’t play a starring role. To decrease sugar’s importance at these celebrations and events, emphasize fun instead. For example, keep the cake, but fill your child’s birthday pinata with small toys instead of candy. Substitute healthier Christmas cookie recipes for sugar-laden ones. You don’t need to forgo special traditions altogether, just try to make healthy changes that are still fun and tasty.  

Read Labels

Added sugar is hidden in many processed foods, even those that most people assume are good for them. You’re likely to find added sugar hidden in spaghetti sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, yogurt, and bread, as well as in many other foods. To avoid it, read labels and look for alternative products made with less sugar. As more people look to decrease their consumption of added sugar, many companies are responding by offering more low-sugar products. Alternatively, consider making some of them yourself. For example, this crockpot bread recipe recipe uses honey instead of sugar and isn’t too labor-intensive.

Reduce Processed Foods

Reduce the amount of processed foods your kids eat to reduce their sugar consumption. The trick is to find suitable replacements that are both healthy and easy for you to make. For instance, consider replacing cookies with fruit, crackers with baked cheese crisps, and cereal with homemade oatmeal. Your kids may balk the first time you offer an apple instead of a chocolate chip cookie, but don’t give up. If they’re unhappy with their new options, consider a compromise. Maybe instead of a whole cookie, they get half a cookie and two apple slices to start.   

Cook at Home

It can be a lot of work, but cooking most meals at home is one of the best ways to reduce your children’s sugar consumption and improve their overall nutrition. The more you cook at home, the more control you have over the foods your family eats. Crockpot meals can save time, and doubling recipes so that you have leftovers can reduce your workload.   

Pack Snacks

If you’re out and about with your kids, it’s tempting to grab a snack from a vending machine or to order fast food. To avoid this, plan ahead and pack a few snacks. Trail mix, nuts, apples, and bananas travel well. Throw in a couple of individual packets of nut butter to add some additional protein and flavor.

Make Small Changes

Start small. If your family relies heavily on processed foods and juices, don’t just throw them all out and switch to water and fruit. Instead, make gradual changes; you’re more likely to stick with them. Start by making one healthy change. For instance, switch from juice to water. If that proves too difficult, dilute the juice with water to give your kids time to get used to the loss of sweetness. After a few days, make the switch to 100% water. Once you’ve conquered one change, move on to the next. Maybe switch from processed cereal to homemade oatmeal or substitute fruit for fruit snacks. It’s normal to experience setbacks, and it’s fine if the entire process takes weeks or even months.

Do you have any other suggestions for helping parents reduce their children’s sugar intake? If you do, please get in touch with us here at Crème de la Crème. We’re always looking for new ways to help kids become the happiest, healthiest versions of themselves!