Is your kid’s sweet tooth out of control?
Sure, most kids love cookies, cupcakes and candy but if yours frequently ask for sugary treats or want more after a few bites, it can become a bad habit.
If your kids are like mine, having pudding, chocolate or pie in the house becomes a near obsession. Since they eat a mostly whole-foods diet, when there is sugar in the house—especially around the holidays—they ask for it every single day without fail.
Is Sugar Actually Toxic?
It’s no surprise that kids eat too much sugar. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 16 percent of children and teens’ total calories come from added sugars.
Sugar can be addictive for some people and researchers say it’s actually toxic and can lead to weight gain regardless of the amount of calories.
According to a 2015 study published in the journal Obesity kids between the ages of 8 and 18 who reduced the amount of sugar in their diets but replaced the calories with starch, still showed improvement in blood glucose, LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides, and less fat in their liver.
Sugar is empty calories and has no nutritional value whatsoever. Eating too much sugar can take the place of more nutritious foods your kids need to grow and develop, weaken their immune system and lead to cavities. Diets high in sugar can cause weight gain, type-2 diabetes and increase the risk of dying from heart disease, an April 2014 study in JAMA Internal Medicine found.
Sugar may not make your kid hyper—I beg to differ—but eating sugar can make them feel sluggish and cranky.
The American Heart Association recommends children under 2 shouldn’t eat any sugar and those older than 2 shouldn’t consume more than 25 grams—or 6 teaspoons—of added sugars a day.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is continuing to roll out the Nutrition Facts label which include a separate line for “added sugars” both in grams and as percent Daily Value. Since sugar can hide in more than 60 names, this is extremely helpful.
Not only is it challenging to eliminate sugar altogether, but kids—like adults—should be able to have a treat now and then. With these 5 tips, you can satisfy your kid’s sweet tooth without going overboard with sugar
1. Choose low-glycemic fruit
Surprisingly, the body can’t tell the difference between nutritive, sugars that provide calories like fructose in fruit and non-nutritive (artificial) sugars like those in processed foods and candy, for example. It’s possible therefore, that eating fruit, especially types that are high in sugar may very well cause your kids to crave more sugar.
Although fruit is natural and nutritious and you should aim to get a variety of fruits in your child’s diet, focusing on low-glycemic fruits like blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are always good choices because they’re fiber-rich and won’t spike their blood sugar.
2. Re-think dessert
Instead of cake, cookies and candy, re-think what dessert can be. Muffins, yogurt, trail mix, pudding and cereal may be better options, but pay attention to the sugar content because many “healthy” foods can have just as much sugar as traditional desserts.
3. Make frozen treats
Instead of ice cream, sorbet or frozen pies, freeze fruit or buy frozen fruit for a healthy, delicious treat. Frozen blueberries for example, are sweet and nutritious eaten alone or added to Greek yogurt for dessert. Or put frozen bananas in the food processor for a healthy, sweet treat.
4. Use baking substitutions
Find healthy alternative recipes for your kids’ favorite treats or try to use substitutions for sugar. Ingredients like rolled oats, bananas, applesauce, dates, figs, dried fruit, cacao nibs, vanilla and almond extracts, and cinnamon and nutmeg can cut down on the sugar without losing the sweetness and taste.
5. Use sugar substitutes—sparingly
Sweeteners like stevia, maple syrup and honey may be better than pure sugar or artificial sweeteners, but they still have sugar and they’re still sweet so be mindful about how much you’re using.