As a mom, I find myself keeping track of dozens of things at any one given time with regards to my kids. When was her last wet diaper? When was the last time he ate a vegetable? How long has it been since he colored on the walls? And especially lately, how much sugar have they consumed today? That’s a big one for me right now. I’ve been working hard to cut sugar out of my children’s diets – here’s how I do it.
My History with Sugar
Growing up, my mom didn’t allow ‘junk’ in our house – chips, candy, soda, cookies, etc. Pretzels were about as crazy as she got. I know she was trying to do the best for me, but it backfired. I’d binge at my friends houses, I’d sneak food, and once I was old enough to buy school lunch I’d only buy crap. When I was in high school I ate french fries almost every day for lunch (they were only $1)!
No surprise here, but I dealt with a lot of food issues – and still battle many to this day. I knew when I had kids that I didn’t want to make anything off limits to them. Sure, we always have healthy foods in the house, and I offer healthy snacks all day long. But if they want a cookie, I never really said no.
I try to maintain an 80/20 balance with healthy eating now. A few months ago, my husband and I did Whole30. In a nutshell, Whole30 is an extremely strict diet that you follow for 30 days. No sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, alcohol, or anything processed. Your diet consists of meats, seafoods, eggs, vegetables, healthy fats, and limited fruits for every meal for 30 days. My kids didn’t follow this with us, obviously, but they ate a lot of what we cooked.
At the end of 30 days, my husband and I both felt amazing. The program is designed to slowly introduce back the ‘bad’ foods one at a time to see how you react. When I added sugar, I started feeling terrible. I was bloated, sluggish, moody, and did not sleep as well. Since then, I’ve done a lot of research, and ~shocker ahead~ SUGAR IS BAD. I’ve been working very hard to be more mindful of watching my kids’ sugar intake. Below are some tips for cutting sugar out of their diet.
How to cut sugar out of your children’s diets
- Read the labels.
This part is tedious at first, but quickly becomes second nature. It is shocking how many products have added sugar – salad dressing? Bread? Ketchup? Pasta Sauce? Come on. Try to choose products that do not have any added sugar.
Be aware of the different sources of sugar. Interestingly enough, sugar is not usually listed on the ingredients list! Manufacturers can use multiple sources of added sugar, and will list them all separately. Your body metabolizes all added sugar the same – so it doesn’t distinguish between brown sugar and honey.
2. Do it gradually.
Your kids are accustomed to a certain diet, right? I recommend slowly swapping out items with added sugar for ones without. Start introducing healthier choices at each meal. Swap out fruit juices for real, whole fruit. And importantly, talk to your kids about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it! My son is only 3.5 years old, and we talk about food and nutrition all the time. He knows that too much sugar isn’t good for him, and it’s important to put healthy food in our bodies.
3. Swap out your traditional recipes.
Now, for the fun part! It’s time to experiment in the kitchen. If you think my kids don’t like sweet things, you’d be crazy. Of course they do! But I try to bake with naturally sweet swaps – super ripe bananas, unsweetened applesauce, or raw local honey. I try to make my own sauces instead of buying store bought jars. (Double or triple the batch and freeze the leftovers!) Also, I’ve had luck cutting the sugar in recipes by half or more. (I didn’t say we were perfect 🙂 ).
4. Don’t go for the fake stuff.
It’s important that you don’t swap out added sugars for added fake sugars. Sure, they are low in calories, but that’s not the point – they have their own issues. Instead, your overall goal should be to cut the sugar addiction. And, that’s what it is – an addiction.
5. Limit it.
My kids are just like every other kid I’ve ever met – they love sweets and treats. When we go to a birthday party, heck yeah they can have a cupcake. At Sunday family dinner, it would be a TRAVESTY if they didn’t get a piece of Grandma’s apple pie. But on the majority of nights around here, dessert is not happening. A treat is just that – a treat. It should be rare and special – not something that they get every day.