We all know that we need to be reducing the amount of sugar our children are eating but when faced when a strong willed picky eater, how exactly do we go about doing that? It’s easy to simply say “just don’t have sugary sweets and snacks in the house” but for me, having lots of low sugar or sugar free alternatives on hand is key to reducing the amount of white stuff my whole family consumes.
1. Fizzy Drinks & Juices: Water and milk are really the only drinks kids should be having on a regular basis. Fizzy drinks are completely devoid of kind of nutritional benefit and are stacked full of sugar or artificial sweeteners. While fruit juice does contain some vitamins, all the fibre has been stripped out and it contains a much higher ratio of sugar to vitamins than whole fruit. Save the fruit juice for special occasions and stick to water instead.
That’s all well and good to say but how exactly can you get your fussy children to drink water? There is no magic answer that’s going to work overnight. The key really is perseverance. If your child drinks a lot of squash or fruit juice, start by diluting it with a little water and gradually increase it more and more. Have lots of fun cups and glasses on hand, and give them a choice of different straws to make the experience a little more exciting. Ice cubes are another great way of encouraging kids to drink more water during the summer. Freeze fruit or a little fruit juice in ice cubes. They’ll love watching it melt into the water.
2. Breakfast Cereals: As parents the last thing we want is an argument about food first thing in the morning but feeding our kids sugary breakfast cereals is going to start their day off with an inevitable sugar rush and slump which will leave them craving the stuff all day. Oats are a fantastic and cheap way to feed a family and there’s so much you can do with them – warm porridge, cold overnight oats, oat bars and flapjacks, etc.
3. Mealtimes: The key to cutting down sugar intake at mealtimes is homemade and from scratch. Most ready meals and convenience foods are pumped with sugar and innocent looking sauces are usually the worst offenders. For me the key to this is to batch make sauces and pesto and keep them in the freezer for busy evenings. You will also be amazed what you can do with a simple tin of tomatoes and some herbs!
4. Yogurts: One of my biggest bug bears are those low fat or fat free yogurts, marketed as “healthy” but are in fact as sugary as a doughnut! Fat is not the enemy remember so choose full fat yogurts which are lower in sugar instead. Some kids brands of fromage frais is lower in sugar than you might think but if you can get them to eat natural yogurt then even better. Greek yogurt is also a fantastic choice because it has a higher protein content.
5. Ice Cream: There’s nothing wrong with a little treat now and then but if your kids eat more ice cream than you think is healthy then try making your own with just a few simple ingredients. No ice cream machine required!
6. After School Snacks: Tired and hungry after school, kids will often beg for a sugary treat when their body is really crying out to be refuelled with proper food. Providing protein and fat will help give them a natural energy boost and keep them full until dinnertime. Think apple slices with cheese, veggie sticks and pitta bread with hummus or a homemade oat bar or energy bites.
7. Popsicles: It’s summer and kids love nothing more than popsicles at this time of year. This is your chance to get creative and make your own without all that unnecessary sugar and artificial sweetener. The kids will love getting involved in this too and it will work out cheaper over the course of the summer than buying individual ice lollies.
8. Biscuits: Biscuits are a real sugar trigger for me. Once I start I can literally eat the whole packet within minutes! So I rarely buy biscuits now. Instead I always have oat cakes on hand to stave away the sugar cravings or we sometimes make our own refined sugar free cookies at the weekend.
9. Eat More Fruit: I know, easier said than done when you are faced with the pickiest of eaters but remember that most fruit is naturally very sweet so just keep offering it and over time your kids are sure to try a little more and more. Making fruit more fun will help with this too. Try freezing grapes or making fun faces with fruit. There are million of tutorials on Pinterest on this so get creative!
10. Talk About Food: Sugar is bad, we know that. But kids don’t always understand the reason why we should be eating certain foods more than others. It is important that we talk to them about what we eat and why. Try to avoid using terms such as “that will make you fat”, etc and instead highlight the positives of food such as “that will help your bones to grow”, “that will give you energy to play sports”. Positive reinforcement all the way!