*Written by an experienced nutritionist, from Organic Traditions, with more than 5 years of professional expertise in the field.
Consuming too much sugar is an increasingly relevant issue for children and adults alike. As a nutritionist with five years of experience, I have witnessed the detrimental effects of added sugar on children’s health, from weight gain and dental cavities to an increased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes.
In this article, I will demonstrate ten tips parents can use to reduce added sugar in their kids’ diets to maintain their health and well-being.
What are refined and Added sugars?
Refined and added sugars are sweetening agents that are added to food for flavor, texture, and sweetness, and they are becoming a big part of the modern diet, especially for children.
- Refined sugar is heavily and stripped processed to remove impurities and natural nutrients, making it more palatable and easier to use in different types of food. It often comes from corn syrup, high fructose, and cane sugar and is typically found in processed foods, snacks, and beverages. Refined sugars are made up of simple carbohydrates or monosaccharides such as glucose and fructose, which can enter the bloodstream quickly, leading to a spike in blood sugar levels.
- Added sugar adds sweetness, calories, and carbohydrates to desserts, soda, energy drinks, or flavored yogurt. Added sugars come from many sources, such as honey, molasses, fruit juice concentrates, and syrups. While it tastes great, it can harm a child’s health with excessive amounts.
Both refined and added sugars can have a detrimental effect on a child’s health when consumed in excess, so parents need to reduce their children’s sugar intake to ensure a healthier diet.
10 Easy Ways to Reduce Sugar in Your Child’s Diet
When trying to reduce sugar consumption, we aim not to restrict or control, but to educate, especially when it comes to fussy children. From a simple change in food choices to low-sugar syrup, my goal is always to provide smart and enjoyable ways for parents to help their children make health-conscious decisions.
Drastically Reduce Fizzy Drinks and Juices
Juices are an important part of a child’s diet, but we often forget that even these beverages provide no essential nutritional value. Fizzy drinks and juices are loaded with sugars. As healthy alternatives become more popular, replace these sugar-packed drinks with healthier options like unsweetened tea or fresh juice.
Substitute Breakfast Cereals
Breakfast cereals have been a favorite breakfast option for many children worldwide, but they are not as easy to digest and do not provide proper nutrition. Oatmeal is a great, far more nutritious alternative that can easily be incorporated into your child’s daily diet. Instead of sugar-laden cereals packed with artificial sweeteners and colors, you can add natural sweeteners such as honey and fresh fruit juice to maintain that sweet flavor.
Keep it Homemade
Making food from scratch might seem a time-consuming task at first but nowadays there are many dinner recipe ideas for busy people. This tip allows controlling what goes into your child’s dish while being able to customize the flavors depending on their preferences. For example, it is almost impossible to uncover recipes without some sauce or condiment on top.
Still, most commercial sauces have high amounts of sugar and sodium, which can impact your child’s health if they consume them in excess. Homemade versions of traditional Italian or Mexican sauces like ranch dressing or salsa verde are healthier when made with fresh and nutritious ingredients.
Eat More Fruit
We all know that fruit is healthy, but the problem is that it is challenging for children to eat, especially the picky ones. Dried fruits and fruit leathers are great options that taste like candy while offering the necessary fibers and vitamins without all the added sugar.
Make a Healthy Popsicle Treat
Popsicles are an easy and refreshing treat for children, but they can be unhealthy if made with sugar-filled fruit juice. Instead, opt out for delicious popsicles made with natural fruit smoothies. These fruit popsicles provide more nutrients than store-bought puree-based popsicles, offer endless variations, and are quick to make with just a couple of ingredients you typically have at home, like bananas, strawberries, mangoes, etc.
Opt for Whole Foods That Are Not Processed
Processed food is often loaded with additives and artificial ingredients and can lead to stomach aches and several health conditions. There are benefits to getting your kid on whole foods, but not just in the long run. Whole food such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or beans can have immediate results on mood, energy levels, and other physical aspects that affect your child’s well-being.
Buy Unsweetened Yogurts
Purchasing unsweetened yogurt can help to save money while still providing a healthy balanced diet for your child without the drawbacks of added sugar. Dried fruits and berries are one of the many ways to add a healthy sweet flavor to unsweetened yogurt. Dried fruits like raisins, cranberries, Blueberries, and dates provide high levels of fiber and antioxidants that are good for your child’s health.
Make Your Ice Cream
This easy, no-machine-needed ice cream recipe is a delicious and healthier alternative to quench your kids’ sweet tooth. All you need to do is mix and freeze a few ingredients you likely have in your kitchen, like milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt, then put them in an airtight container for about an hour.
Make Protein Rich Meals
One of the most common misconceptions about protein is that it is only meat and poultry-based food items such as chicken or beef. Protein-rich meals typically include lean meats and foods like nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes, with recipe options such as beef dishes, soup, chicken dishes, fish dishes, and pasta.
Talk to Your Kids About Food
As a nutrition expert, I cannot stress the importance of parents in educating their children about their health enough. Negative conversations about food do not teach kids anything but can lead to more unhealthy options. Instead, discuss how food affects their bodies, such as the effects of sugar on health concerns such as gluten intolerance or lactose intolerance. Focus on the positive things about healthy eating and avoid comments about negative consequences.
Concerning Health Consequences from Added Sugars
As parents, it is important to be aware of the potential health risks associated with added sugar in your kids’ diet. Added sugars, especially those in processed foods and beverages, can result in obesity, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. These problems can be especially concerning for children since their bodies and minds undergo significant growth and development. Fortunately, parents can take a few simple steps to reduce their children’s sugar intake and ensure they maintain a healthy diet.
Although our kids may have a sweet tooth, it is crucial to monitor their sugar intake. Eating too much sugar contributes to many chronic and concerning health issues. However, with the right alternatives, parents can maintain a flavorful yet nutritious diet for their children.