When it comes to your child’s overall health, the old adage, “you are what you eat” can serve as a helpful guide. If you want your kids to be as healthy as possible, it’s crucial to carefully monitor both the quantity and quality of the food they’re consuming. One of the largest culprits when it comes to childhood-related health conditions such as diabetes, childhood obesity, and tooth decay is sugar. Here are some tips for reducing the amount of sugar in your kids’ diet.
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Eliminate Soda and Cut Back on Juice
Pediatric dental care professionals and pediatric health specialists agree that children in our society are consuming far more sugar than they should. The World Health Organization recommends that children should consume no more than three teaspoons of added sugar per day. To put that amount into perspective, one average 12 ounce can of soda includes 12.5 teaspoons of sugar. So if a child drinks one can of soda per day, they’ve already far exceeded the recommended daily limit.
Many problems with children consuming too much sugar can be avoided simply by completely getting rid of soda and other sugary soft drinks. Though it may seem like a difficult habit to break, refusing to purchase soda will save you money at the grocery store as well as at the dentist’s office. You should encourage your child to drink plenty of water and milk to stay hydrated. Though juice is often seen as a substitute for soda, it can also be extremely high in sugar content. Check the labels and choose to serve your children juice sparingly. Watering down their juice is another smart way to keep them from overloading on sugar.
Replace Sugar with Natural Sweeteners
Though some artificial sweeteners may cause potentially harmful side effects, there are natural sweeteners that can be used as substitutes for sugar. These would include options such as raw honey, maple syrup, blackstrap molasses, and stevia, to name a few. These sweeteners are typically much lower in calories than sugar. Stevia actually has zero calories and is plant-based. You can find plenty of recipes online that recreate some of your child’s favorite homemade treats, such as cookies and cakes, using natural sweeteners instead of sugar.
Focus on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
One of the most simple, tasty treats to give your kids is fresh fruits and vegetables. Encourage your children to snack on a variety of different fruits and veggies, such as sliced apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, carrots, celery, and bell peppers. Unlike sugary sweets, these all-natural snacks can give your kids lasting energy and boost their nutritional intake. You’ll also probably notice that your child won’t experience the hyper, nervous boosts of energy known as “sugar highs” that occur when they consume sugary snacks and drinks. For kids that love fruit juice, eating a piece of juicy fruit, such as a fresh peach, plum, or nectarine can satisfy their juice craving without all the unnecessary added sugar.
Limit Sugary Sweets to a Weekly Treat
A key to maintaining good nutrition is to remember that sugary sweets can be eaten sparingly. Once you’ve slowly eliminated the majority of sweets from your child’s diet, you can offer a moderate amount of sugary sweets for special occasions. Perhaps your child could earn their favorite candy, ice cream, or a soda once a week for doing their chores or completing their homework assignments. Getting kids to view sugary sweets as rare treats rather than part of their regular daily food intake is a step in the right direction toward an overall healthy diet.
When it comes to nutrition, it’s important for parents to be proactive about their children’s health. Children are naturally drawn toward sugary sweets. They normally haven’t developed the long-range thinking skills and self-control to make wise decisions about their sugar intake. Though they may not be thrilled with changing their eating routine right away, your children will most likely thank you in the long run for helping them develop healthy eating habits that will put them on a path to a happier, healthier lifestyle.