Should I cut sugar out of my kids’ diet?
Sugar and spice, and everything nice! We all know that sugar in all of its forms is yummy, and eating sticky treats can be a highlight of childhood, but how do we draw the line on sugar intake when it seems so prevalent? Is there a way to encourage healthy eating without depriving your children?
With obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other negative effects of over-consumption on the rise, we as parents need to make some serious decisions about the diet we feed our children. Cutting all sugar out of our children’s diet might sound like a quick solution, but it’s actually quite difficult and possibly unreasonable in our culture today.
As a parent of three healthy teenagers, these are the four key concepts that helped us raise our girls in a balanced way:
How to Encourage Healthy Eating
1. Educate yourself.
Just because every other child at the lunch table is sucking down Capri Suns daily, doesn’t mean that’s the best thing for your child to drink. Read up on health articles. We all know about obesity, hyperactivity, and tooth decay. But, did you know a recent study points to excessive sugar as the culprit in weakened immune systems, cough, and symptoms of sinus infections? Marketers try very hard to keep you from finding out just how much sugar is in 16 ounces of Gatorade, so you have to search out the truth for yourself, reading every label you put in your cart.
2. Take responsibility as the parent.
Ultimately you are in charge of your child’s health while they are living under your roof. Obviously, as your children get older, they play more of a role in choosing what they consume, but especially when they are young, that is your role as a parent. Young children don’t have the self-control or reasoning power to be in charge of their eating habits. Please don’t burden them with that task! They will always choose Fruit Loops and Coca-cola… it’s just a given.
3. Moderation in all things.
If you try to cut sugar (and its cousin high fructose corn syrup) completely out of your son or daughter’s diet, and bar the door from it ever entering your house… good luck! Because you don’t want your child to grow up embittered against you because dessert was always a rice cake with natural peanut butter, you must find a good middle ground. In our family, we found that our girls were constantly receiving candy from outside sources: as school prizes, in birthday treat bags, Valentine’s parties, from friends… and the list goes on and on. In addition to the goodies we had around the house, they were eating candy every day! It was at that point that we instituted “Friday Candy Day!” All of your candy received during the week goes into your special tin, and then on Friday you can choose a special candy to take to school with you. They loved it! Suddenly candy was a treat again, savored and looked forward to… appreciated. (Use your good judgment on obvious exceptions, times to eat something on the spot).
4. Just do what you can.
Every once in a while, step back and take stock of how things are going. It’s easy to slip back into old habits, especially when the convenience and deliciousness of sugary treats always seem to be right there. Help yourself out by keeping soda, candy bars, and packaged desserts simply out of the house. If they’re not there, they won’t be eaten. It’s hard at first, but your family will soon find delicious alternatives. Finally, don’t beat yourself up if your kids are eating Pop Tarts for breakfast; just do the best you can, and remember that every choice for health is a step in the right direction. Plan for fruit and oatmeal tomorrow!