Sugar occurs naturally in many foods. These include fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products. We get all the sugar we need from these foods.
Many foods have added sugar. At best, all this extra sugar just adds empty calories to our diets. At worst, it can contribute to hyperactivity, mood disorders, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Sugar is often added to foods we wouldn’t think had sugar in them. These include breads, canned soup or vegetables, condiments such as ketchup, frozen meals, and fast food. For the best health, we should avoid or reduce the amounts of these foods we eat.
Here are some tips for reducing the amount of sugar in your and your children’s diets.
- Don’t ban sweets. Saying your child can’t have doughnuts or cake ever again can create cravings. When they do have a sweet treat, they tend to overindulge. Just make these kinds of foods a special treat instead of a regular part of their diet.
- Modify recipes. Many recipes taste just as good with less sugar added. Try reducing the amount of added sugar by half and see how it comes out.
- Avoid sugary drinks. It is recommended that children should have no more than 12 grams of sugar a day (3 teaspoons). Yet 1 can of regular soda has 40 grams (10 teaspoons) of added sugar. Cutting out sodas and juices is an easy way to reduce sugar.
- Eat more fruit. Fruit has plenty of natural sugar. Eat more to satisfy your sugar cravings. Make desserts that are centered around fruit. Try a fruit smoothie instead of a milkshake.
Be smart about fat
Healthy fats are an important part of our diet. They help us get and stay full. They also benefit our brains, improving memory and lifting mood. The key is to make sure your kids are eating the right fats.
Make fruits and veggies more appealing
The first step to making fruits and veggies appealing is to get rid of unhealthy sweet and salty snacks. Your child might want a salty snack, such as potato chips. But if there aren’t any in the house, he or she will be more likely to enjoy carrots with hummus.
After that, try some of these ideas:
- Keep fresh fruit on hand. Keep whole fruit out where your child can see it. Just a bowl with apples and bananas on the kitchen table serves as a reminder. Plus, whole fruit is an easy snack to grab on your way out the door. This is helpful with older children.
- Let kids choose. When you’re shopping, let your child pick what produce sounds good to them. They know what they are more likely to want to eat.
- Hide veggies in other food. Your child will never know he or she is eating vegetables if you hide them in other foods. Shredding them and adding them is an easy way to get them in. You can shred or grate veggies such as zucchini or carrots into stews, spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, or casseroles. Or you can bake them in muffins or breads.
- Use your imagination. To get your little ones to try more fruits and veggies, make it fun. Create a scene on their plate made up of produce. You can use broccoli for trees, cauliflower for clouds, and a slice of yellow squash for a sun. Be creative and make it appealing to them.