8 Ways to Limit Sugar (in Children)

A girl in Wonder Woman outfit sits licking ice cream on the sidewalk

Limiting Sugar Intake

Willy Wonka welcomed children into his factory and weeded them out one by one. How do we ensure we don’t raise an Augustus Gloop? Or how do we turn Willy Wonkas into Wonder Women?

A lot of research this day and age focuses on the health of our young children, and, with obesity a growing epidemic in the United States, we must focus on the studies that tell us how to change this and do something about it.

Why?

Because we care, as parents, and because we want our offspring to grow up healthy and strong, living longer lives.

Did you know that we will soon be seeing the first person to live to the age of 150? Did you know that he or she are believed to be alive today? I tell my patients on a regular basis that they could be the one! Especially when I’m urging them to make a necessary change, like quitting their bad smoking habits or losing weight and becoming fit. It makes one heck of an encouragement tool!

a child in black and white is shown, his face all filled with chocolate cake, after eating it messily.

 

Did you also know that approximately one in three children are overweight and about one in six (ages 6 to 17) are obese? Good health habits start at these younger ages and it’s therefore so important to establish a healthy lifestyle and a diet early on in life.

In fact, did you know that changes in our blood vessels supplying our hearts, including those that lead to heart attacks and other forms of heart disease start in childhood? A study that pointed this out can be found by clicking here. It’s important, now more than ever, with an increased understanding of how heart disease works, to make the necessary health changes, for our children, and as a society.


Beautiful candy canes make up a backdrop for the 8 ways of limiting sugar intake

Eight Ways to Limit Sugar

In what way do we limit sugar intake in our household? Here are some pointers that I live by in my own household.

Encourage fruit

Fruit contains natural sugars and fiber (which limits the insulin response to sugar) and, depending on which one you choose, are an excellent sources of vitamins and minerals for a healthy little body. An oldie but goodie medical study done by the Journal of Nutrition is called Metabolic Effects of Dietary Fiber Consumption and Prevention of Diabetes (click on the study to read it) and shows the link between eating a lot of fiber, a substance found in fruits and vegetables, for example, and reducing your risk of diabetes.

Limit absolute-not’s

I remain open-minded about the need for something sweet. A few bites of chocolate after a meal is normally ok for my children to have, as long as they know their limits and don’t insist on more. You can make allowances that are appropriate for you. For example, this practice can change if they are being punished for inappropriate behavior, and I’ve take away dessert rights, or if mealtime takes place at later hours of the evening. But on a regular day, sure.

Size matters

I limit how many they have, or the size of the treat. There are sweets out there that are filled with sugar, and if you read labels carefully, a serving size is often a fraction of the bag, regardless of how small that bag actually is. Usually a few bites is enough, and filled with a sufficient amount of sugar to satisfy little tummies and lift those cheeks up into a smile.

Chocolate is ok, in moderation

I am more lenient with chocolate treats, and especially with dark chocolate, which has been shown over and over again, to have positive health benefits and lead to a reduction in cardiovascular risk. Wendy Hunter, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at UC San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital writes about the potential health benefits of introducing young children to dark chocolate in her blog, Baby Science, in a blog post titled The Dark Side of Dark Chocolate.a few bites of chocolate rest on a plate, with a smoothie in the background.

Do keep in mind that dark chocolate contains a natural amount of caffeine so that may play into your decision.

Serve as a role model

I don’t eat much sugar. Our children look to us to set an example, and we are in turn their role models. If they see you munching on sweets, they probably will want to as well. We are their everything, their world. They want to be just like us, more than you can imagine that they do.

Swap out sugary breakfast cereals

This means we not only swap them for less sugary cereals, but also to alternative meals in the morning, like oatmeal, which my own three children love, or eggs.a plate of oatmeal is pictured form the top, covered by strawberries.

Limit high fructose corn syrup

This topic remains controversial and has been so for many years. I prefer limiting high fructose corn syrup from most of the products in our home, but I’m sure a few slip by without my noticing. Bottom line is, if I can avoid it, I do. An article about the topic that’s worth reading from the Huffington Post is by Mark Hyman, MD, titled Why You Should Never Eat High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Commercial yogurts a no-no

This ties in with the last point. They simply have exorbitant amounts of sugar stuffed inside of tiny portions. Again, read labels for sugar content.


Like other parents out there, I hope to be making the right decisions in raising my children. Nobody holds the exact RIGHT key or knows the secret formula. I go by my own experience, advice from others more experienced and wiser, the research findings available out there on the topic and combine it all with my own maternal instinct.

Click here for a link on more of the health benefits of good nutrition in children, brought to you by the American Psychological Association.

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