Look around any playground and you’ll notice that children are a lot larger than in decades past. In fact, 25% of kids two to five years old are now considered overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That is the scary truth!! Of course, it’s not possible to totally escape SUGAR! Natural sugars are present in some of the most nutritious foods; including fruit, veggies, and milk. However, the bigger concern is added sugar to processed foods, such as: breakfast cereals, yogurt, snack bars, candy, cake, and cookies. According to a recent survey, preschoolers consume an average of 10 to 12 teaspoons of sugar each day— that’s 3 to 4 times the limit the American Heart Association recommends.
Here are Four Tips to help limit your child’s sugar intake:
- Keep healthy snack within reach. I keep healthy snacks on the kitchen island, so my toddler can easily grab the right choice like grapes, apples, bananas, and oranges. Everyday we make a fresh fruit bowl of kiwi, blueberrries, raspberries, and strawberries. My son also loves raisins, cut up veggies to dip in peanut butter, hummus, guacamole, or salsa as well as fresh cheese, olives, and nuts.
- Read Food Labels! You have to be a food detective for your kids, and just because it is stocked in Whole foods (which I love!) doesn’t mean it is “healthy.” Just the other day, my son wanted me to buy fig newtons (because he eats them at preschool… a whole separate issue!) and I couldn’t believe that high fructose corn syrup was the second ingredient. I had to distract with some natural popcorn to get out of the cookie aisle. Be sure to reach for items that say “no sugar added” as well as products that don’t contain dextrose, maltose, sucrose, cane syrup, and of course high fructose corn syrup.
- Serve healthy drinks! What’s the best choice…. WATER!! Just like with my clients, I make my son carry around his water bottle so that his go-to choice is always water! What’s not…. soda, fruity punches, sports/energy drinks. A 16-oz bottle of some drinks can contain upwards of 27 teaspoons of added sugar. That’s why sugary beverages are considered one of the primary contributors to childhood obesity. In fact, according to a study in Pediatrics, every sugary drink a child consumes increases her obesity risk 60 percent. That’s right — each drink ups the risk another 60 percent. What’s scary is that 44 percent of toddlers (18 to 24 months old) and 70 percent of kids two to five years old routinely guzzle down these sugar-laden drinks. So save sugary beverages for special occasions only, or limit the portion to four to six ounces and cut the juice with water.
- Avoid using food as a reward or show of love. This is a tough one, and seriously a bad habit that stays with you for years. We work with clients to separate habits of emotional eating that come from their childhood. Try to teach your toddler that going to the potty and picking up toys definitely deserves kudos! But if you get in the habit of offering treats for every accomplishment, it can lead your toddler to develop an unhealthy emotional relationship with food, which can in turn lead to overeating later on. When you want to reward your child or let him know how much you love him, give him hugs and kisses. They’re much more valuable than candy… and of course, calorie-free!!!