Most of us know that sugar is bad for our kids, as it has been linked to type-2 diabetes, obesity, and other lifestyle diseases. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that kids should not have more than 3 teaspoons (12 grams) of sugar per day. The World Health Organization has also updated its guidelines for sugar intake, recommending that calories from sugar should constitute less than 5% of the total calorie intake of an individual per day. A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that kids are getting most of their sugar from processed food items such as fizzy drinks, fruit drinks, grain-based sweets, cereals, dairy desserts, candies, etc.
As adults, we may be able to cut down on our sugar intake, but expecting the same behavior from kids is a little more complicated since they are too young to understand the associated risks. Getting your kids to stay away from sugar may be a challenge, but with patience and perseverance, you can always guide them on the right track. Let’s take a look at some of the easiest ways to reduce sugar in your kid’s diet.
Eliminate sugary drinks:
Kids just love sugary drinks, which include sodas, fruit punch, sports/energy drinks, etc. These are the first things you should try to eliminate from your kid’s diet. Even brands that say 100% fruit juice should be avoided since most of these contain added sugar. Kids gorge on these and then they want more since sugary drinks are devoid of all fiber and they are rarely useful in eliminating hunger. When kids don’t feel full, they are likely to consume more food, which means more calories. Sugar is highly addictive, so you have to reduce it gradually from your kid’s diet.
Fruits are a good replacement for sugar since it can satisfy the sugar cravings of your child. The sugar in fruits is absorbed gradually, which ensures that your kid does not experience a sugar spike. Moreover, fruits are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals, which will ensure overall health and wellness of your kid. Stack up your kitchen and refrigerator with your kid’s favorite fruits and they are most likely to get habituated to eating it on a regular basis.
Choose healthy snacking options:
Prepare healthy snacks made from vegetables, whole grains, dairy, poultry, meat, etc., so that your kid can have these whenever they feel hungry. It’s better to prepare these in advance and keep it ready for your kid. You may just have to warm these if needed. Healthy snacking options would also include food items such as nuts and seeds. These are nutrient-dense foods and they will help your kid to stay away from sugar.
Identify food items with hidden sugar:
Reading the nutrition label on packaged food items seems like a smart choice, but don’t forget that manufacturers have become even smarter. Sugar now comes disguised in other forms such as fruit juice concentrate, sucrose, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, malt syrup, maltose, lactose, crystalline fructose, etc. Even cereals contain high levels of sugar, so don’t always believe what the nutrition label says.
Educate your child:
Educating your child about cutting down on sugar may not work initially, but if you persevere, they may begin to understand some of the things you are trying to tell them. You can use story books that talk about the dangers of sugar and even certain apps that are meant to educate kids about the adverse effects of sugar. You can also talk about the good things that can happen when they replace their sugary foods with healthy alternatives.
Lead by example:
Kids learn a lot from their parents, so ensure that your diet reflects the things you want your kid to follow. Eat an apple in front of them, or bananas, nuts, salad, etc., and when this happens every day, your kid is likely to pick up the habit. This way, you can work on their subconscious mind and you need not even lecture them about reducing sugar.
Do some bad publicity about Sugar:
Just like sugary food brands bombard your kid with tons of advertisements, you can counter it by doing some bad publicity about sugar. Do it in a way that it’s exciting and enjoyable for you kid. You can come up with your own idea of a game or skit, or you can use some props to get the message to your kid. Do it in a way that your kid feels a sense of achievement when they stay away from sugary foods and drinks.
Use home cooked food:
There are numerous delicious items that you can make at home and give to your kid. Some of these may contain sugar, but it will be a lot less than what is usually there in processed food items. Moreover, it will be fresh and loaded with nutrients and fiber, things that are perfect for your kid. Also, it won’t have any of the chemicals that are often added to processed food items to preserve it and enhance its taste.
Have a sugar day:
Initially, when you are trying to reduce sugar in your kid’s diet, you can allocate any day of the week when your kid can have the things they like. You can gradually increase the duration, for example, starting at once a week and moving to once in two weeks, once a month, and so on. However, keep educating your child about the risks associated with sugar, so that they do not misinterpret the sugar day as a reward.
Get your kid to exercise:
We love sugar because it releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that impacts the reward and pleasure centers in the brain. Physical exercise does the same thing; it too prompts the body to release dopamine. Getting your kid to exercise regularly can work at the root level and help them stay away from sugary foods and drinks. Moreover, there are several other benefits associated with physical exercises.