It’s not just adults that need to drastically lower their sugar intake. Reducing sugar is super important for our children too.
Sugar has been linked to tons of health and behavioral issues in children.
Their little bodies and minds are working so hard to grow and develop. They need the best fuel possible, and sugar is definitely not it.
Problem is that most children are IN LOVE with sugar, and the food companies know it. Packaging for sugar filled items is plastered with characters that they know and love, and they are all kept right at their eye-level in the hopes that you’ll cave when the ‘I want Froot Looooooooops!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!’ meltdown ensues.
So how are we supposed to compete with all of this??
While I can’t promise that the meltdowns won’t still happen, there ARE some ways that we can reduce some of our children’s sugar intake without too much of a fuss.
Drinks and Juices: This is probably the biggest culprit of sugar in our children’s diet. They ingest SO much sugar via beverages. So the first tip is to limit juice to mealtimes. As an alternative, fruit-infused waters are great for between-meal drinks. Just float some fruit (my kids like berries or oranges best) in a pitcher of water to infuse it with both flavor and nutrients. I’ve found that they are more excited to drink this than plain water.
Secondly, be sure to water juices down when you do serve them. I have always cut my children’s juice with water at a 1:1 ratio, so they are used to it, but if your children are older you may want to start with 2:1 to get them accustomed to it. My older children now find full strength juice too sweet since they are so used to drinking it diluted. Yay!
You may also want to try diluting it with seltzer water (not tonic!). My four year old thinks ‘fizzy juice’ is a special treat. 🙂 This mixture is also a great substitute for soda!
Fun straws or cups reserved only for these types of beverages can be encouraging too.
Popsicles and Ice Cream: If your kids love frozen treats, then you are in luck because this one is an easy switch! Frozen fruits puree beautifully into creamy treats, and they don’t take long to make!
Here are a couple healthy ice creams to try:
And here are two healthy popsicle options:
Need popsicle molds? You can find my faves right here.
Yogurt: Yogurt is healthy, right? Unfortunately most times this is not true. ‘Children’s yogurt is FULL of sugar and artificial colors. 🙁 But the good news is that there are healthier options! Woohoo!
The best option is to buy plain yogurt, sweeten it with honey or real maple syrup, and top with (or mix in) some fruit.
There are some decent packaged options too though. My favorite Is Stonyfield brand. Both their Yo Baby and Yo Kids yogurts are organic and free from artificial colors. artificial flavors, and high fructose corn syrup.
Siggi’s brand is a good one as well. Their yogurt contains only natural ingredients, plus they use hormone-free milk and a lot less sugar.
The squeezers also make great desserts if you freeze them!
Another great option is kefir. Kefir is a cultured milk drink that is very similar in taste to yogurt. It is high in protein, calcium and vitamin D, and contains tons of probiotics. It is so similar to those sugar-laden drinkable yogurt bottles that you COULD refill those fun character bottles with kefir and your kids would be none the wiser. Just sayin. 😉
Cereals and Other Sugary Breakfast Items: Breakfast is usually the meal that contains the most sugar. I encourage you to serve non-sugary breakfast foods that are also high in protein (eggs, nitrite-free sausage, avocado, etc), but if your kids absolutely must have something sweet in the morning then you can find healthier versions of muffins, coffee cakes, etc on my Breakfast Board here: Breakfast Ideas
But what if they are super stuck on cereal?
Fortunately there are some healthier brands. Kashi, Cascadian Farms, and Barbara’s all make low sugar varieties with healthy ingredients.
Just be sure to add some fruit or nuts to up the nutritional value.
After-School Snacks: I love keeping a basket of fruit on the kitchen counter. Not only does it look pretty, but it keeps fruit from being ‘out of sight, out of mind’. I find that my family reaches for fruit more often if it is always in front of them.
I also have a snack shelf for my five-year-old in the pantry that is full of low-sugar snacks. It works well for a few reasons. First off, he gets a choice. Secondly, he feels empowered because he gets to be the one making the choice. Thirdly, it helps me out because what he can choose from has already been established, so we don’t have a battle on our hands about what he can and can’t have.
I like to by the stuff for his snack shelf at Trader Joe’s because then he can grab one of the little carts and feel like he’s shopping for his snacks too, but most of these items (with the exception of the plantain chips) can be found at any grocery store.
Here’s what’s on his snack shelf:
There is always fresh fruit and cheese sticks in the fridge that he is free to choose from as well.
Cookies, brownies, etc: This is another category where making your own can make ALL the difference. I typically make one ‘treat’ on the weekend for us to enjoy throughout the week. Baking with flours such as almond and coconut, and using natural sweeteners such as honey and real maple syrup vastly increases the nutritional value of these goodies, without feeling like you’re being deprived.
Here are a couple to try:
So you see, there are a lot of great alternatives to sugar-laden foods! Be consistent with these changes and your kids will adapt quickly. 🙂
Trying to get on a healthier track??
Hey! I’m Julie.
I’m the mother of three, ages 28, 21, and 6, and Gima (grandmom) to a five-year-old grandson.
Over my 28 years of #momming I have been ALL the moms (single, married, stay-at-home, working, young, ‘mature’, struggling, stable, etc) and have faced every healthy eating challenge there is.
Now the founder of Well Fed Families, and author of the ‘Easy, Healthy Meals for the Tired-Ass Mom’ cookbook, I bring my real-life, family-raising experience to the table to help other overwhelmed mamas get on a healthier track.
So take a load off and stay a while. I’m super glad you’re here. <3