In my last post, I had a look at the recommended daily intake of added sugar, and just how easy it is to consume the 6 teaspoon limit (especially if you have a doting granny that loves nothing more than to bring out the sweet stuff at every opportunity!).
So, apart from the obvious offendors, what can you do to ensure your child’s diet isn’t loaded with unnecessary added sugars and that you stay within the suggested range?
Here are my top tips:
- Add in whole fruit/veg for sweetness in recipes: substitute applesauce and banana for sugar in baking for a deliciously natural sweetness. Butternut, pumpkin and sweet potatoes are naturally sweet options that can be added to a number of recipes (and in some instances delicious in baking too! Check out my recipe for pumpkin & coconut pancakes).
- Get creative with healthy treats: although human beings are naturally drawn to sweet tastes, your child’s habits are a direct reflection of your own choices. Get them used eating sweet creations that are as natural as possible, without being sickly sweet. Make your own ‘ice cream’ by throwing a frozen banana and some cocoa powder into a blender or freeze non-sweetened Greek yoghurt with fruit puree to create delicious frozen lollies.
- Ensure your child is getting plenty of fibre: fibre is essential for little bodies to metabolise the calories found in sugar. Opt for fibre packed foods such as whole fruit, veg or whole grains for general healthy functioning, and especially if your child has had a sugary meal or snack.
- Say yes to healthy snacking: instead of loading your pantry with mini biscuits and other sugary snacks, keep a supply of good-for-you nibbles on hand. Some suggestions include; dried wors, rice crackers, organic rice puffs, cheese, unsweetened yoghurt and dried fruit (all without the added sugar of course!).
- Don’t overdo the honey: although we believe that honey is so much better than sugar, it has the same amount of calories per teaspoon as sugar and is regarded as ‘added sugar’. It therefore is included in the 6 teaspoon daily allowance and should be used sparingly (once your child is 1 year and older).
- Add some flavour: use delicious ‘sweet’ spices like vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg instead of overloading with sugar, honey or agave.
- Dilute fruit juice: not only has fruit juice been linked to tooth decay in growing little people, but one cup easily adds up to more than the recommended daily sugar intake. Always dilute every serving of juice with three parts water (ratio of 1:3). Better than that, get your child used to drinking water. It can only set them up for healthy habits later on in life.
- Cook and bake more often: home-made is always better than convenience, packaged or restaurant meals that tend to add an unnecessary amount of sugar (and other processed ingredients) into meals.
- Introduce the notion of special occasions: if your child learns that certain foods and treats are only for special occasions like birthdays and specific family gatherings, they will be less likely to expect these items every day.
- Get to understand food labels: the scary truth is that many of the baby and toddler foods found on the shelves of your grocery store contain more sugar than you would believe. Even though claims on packaging may boast only the best, and the most natural and organic ingredients for your child, it does not mean that the said item is not crammed with sugar. Always read the ingredients. Other common names of sugar you should keep a watch-out for include; high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, sucrose, glucose, dextrose, cane juice, malt, molasses, lactose, honey, ethyl maltol and maltodextrin.
Remember to not drive yourself crazy about this all. The thing you don’t want to become is the paranoid parent who won’t allow their child within a five foot radius of the kiddies’ table at a birthday party. You also don’t want to make a big deal about sugar (or any food for that matter) because your child will pick up on your paranoia and may become even more intruiged by these forbidden treats.
Every now and then, a sweet treat or two won’t harm your child. In fact it will teach them about the concept of balance and self-control. Two fundamental principles in ensuring a healthy and happy relationship with food later on in life.