How Do We Ease Kids Off Sugar?
By Sarah Wilson
'll be getting my hair cut, buying toilet paper at the supermarket or climbing out of my local pool and a parent will come up to tell me how deeply concerned they are about their kids' eating habits and the way sugar is impacting their health and behavior. Sometimes they're in tears, totally fed up and feeling like failures. It brings me to tears.
Parents feel guilt that they're doing the wrong thing by their kids.
Parents feel powerless to change their situation. The competing food messages, the hidden sugars they're not told about, the way their kids are "sold to", the kids parties they don't want to shut their kids off from.
Meanwhile, our kids are feeling addicted and compromised.
Should My Kids Be Sugar Free?
Yeah, we reckon so.
Let's start here - kids aged 4-8 years should be consuming no more than three teaspoons of sugar a day. This is the recommendations from the American Heart Association.
That sounds reasonable, and manageable, right?
Well, here's the scary truth:
- A glass of apple juice contains 8-10 teaspoons of sugar (the same as a can of Coke).
- The average bowl of cereal has three teaspoons of sugar.
- A slice of white toast with jam has four teaspoons of sugar.
Our kids are eating 3-4 times the recommended daily intake, and that's before they leave the breakfast table!
Here are five easy steps to ease your kids off sugar.
- Don't stigmatise sugar
In our experience the best way to get people off sugar (that's big and little people) is to not make a big deal of it. Instead, treat it like a gentle experiment.
Banning or restricting a food often makes it more of a temptation to your kids. "Forbidden" foods sound super exciting, much like touching a "Wet Paint" sign. Highlighting the wet paint (or in this case the triple choc fudge brownie) makes them focus on it and want to grab at it.
- Be prepared
- Quit buying packaged food. Aim for your kid's diet to be 80 per cent whole food.
- Rearrange your pantry. Put treat foods out of reach and out of view.
- Mix it up where possible. Don't get your kids hooked on just one dish. Keep them interested in food with a variety of flavours.
- Planning is the key. Have a bunch of ready-to-go meals and snacks in your fridge, freezer and pantry for when the kids are hankering for a quick fix.
- Take The Kids Shopping
Ask the kids to find three items on your shopping list in the supermarket. Engaging them in choosing, sorting and finding foods will help them recognise different varieties of fruit and veg, and teach them to select the best options off the shelves.
- Get The Kids Growing
Every expert we've spoken to agrees that when kids actively grow their own veggies they're more likely to eat them, too. It's a win all round!
- Get The Kids Cooking
The more involved the kids are, the more they'll learn to recognise foods and appreciate the benefits of healthy choices. And when they cook it themselves, the more likely they are to want to eat it!
About Sarah Wilson
Sarah Wilson is a New York Times best-selling author, blogger and wellness coach whose journalism career has spanned 20 years, across television, radio, magazines, newspapers and online.
She's the former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and was the host of the first series of MasterChef Australia, the highest rating show in Australian TV history.
She appears regularly as a commentator on a range of programs including Channel 7's Sunday Night, The Morning Show, Sunrise and Weekend Sunrise, Ten Network's Good News Week and The Project, Nine's 60 Minutes and A Current Affair.
Sarah is the author of the best-sellers 'I Quit Sugar' and 'I Quit Sugar For Life'. Sarah has also authored the best-selling series of cookbooks from IQuitSugar.com. Her 8-Week Program has seen more than 495,000 people quit sugar worldwide.