Posted on 04/17/2014 at 12:00 AM by Embria Health Sciences
By Julie Revelant
All kids love their sweets but between candy hearts, chocolates, and special treats for Valentine’s Day (and every other holiday, really), kids today are getting overloaded with too much sugar. The result? Usually a kid filled-up with empty calories is super hyper, which leads to unpredictable behaviors and predictable health issues.
I found this out the hard way a few months ago when after offering my two-year-old a small cup of hot chocolate for the first time, she was pinging off the walls with even more crazy energy than usual.
Yet, the more serious problem with eating too much sugar is that it may put your kids at risk for obesity, cavities, and even cardiovascular disease as adults, as a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests. Finally, some experts also believe sugar can weaken our immune system, which we all know is what keeps us healthy.
Ready to fight the battle against sugar in your kid’s diet? Here are six easy weapons:
1. Avoid “sneaky sugars”
Even if your kid isn’t eating a piece of cake, he could be loading up on sugar in unexpected places. In fact, approximately 16 percent of the calories children and teens consume are from added sugars according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Added sugars are sweeteners added to processed and prepared foods. Some surprising foods we normally call “healthy” including yogurt mixes, sports drinks, juice, as well as many common processed foods like catsup, BBQ sauce, non-fat dressings, etc. contain surprising amounts of added sugar. The main takeaway? Read labels carefully and slowly start to cut down.
2. Don’t deprive them
In my house, my toddler’s idea of a treat is a graham cracker every few days or a piece of cake at a birthday party. Finding a balance between healthy foods and occasional treats is key because deprivation can set kids up for unhealthy eating habits in the future.
3. Put it away
Rather than leaving the cookie jar in clear site all day, the “out of sight/out of mind” approach can help rein in your kid’s sugar consumption. Instead, keep cut up veggies in the refrigerator, or fruit on the counter so your kids will grab them when they’re hungry.
4. Eat whole foods
Avoid packaged foods, which are usually filled with empty calories and “sneaky sugar” and load up on whole foods: fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes, nuts and seeds. Your child won’t be hungry as frequently and as tempted by the sweets to fill that need.
5. Drink plenty of water
Sometimes thirst can disguise itself as hunger and make your kid reach for sugar. If your kid’s pee is clear, he’s probably drinking enough.
6. Offer alternatives
Instead of a piece of candy, get creative with snacks and desserts and your kid will probably start to crave something healthier. Try apple slices with Greek yogurt and agave or a mixed berry smoothie.
Share your thoughts with us! What are some ways you cut down on your kid’s sugar?
A better rule to follow is “everything in moderation.” One treat a day is ok, but make it better by adding a side of berries for extra fiber and added nutrition.