Tips to Help Get Your Kids/Teens Off of Sugar
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that children between 4 and 8 years of age consume no more than 3 teaspoons (12 grams) of added sugar per day and that tweens or teens consume no more than 5 to 8 teaspoons (20-32 grams) of added sugar per day. Many of the students we work with are consuming over 100 grams of added sugar per day without even knowing it. It’s not just from sodas, cookies, and other obvious sugary treats, but often from items we wouldn’t necessarily think are loaded with sugar. Cereals, iced tea/coffee drinks, pasta sauces, and “healthy” muffins are all loaded with sugar. Why does pasta sauce need sugar anyway?
With Halloween around the corner, we can all use some ideas on how to decrease our added sugar content. Added sugar means sugar that is added to foods. For example, if you are purchasing pasta sauce, and one of the ingredients is sucrose, sugar, or any other code name that means sugar, then that is considered added sugar. However, if you are eating dried fruit where the only ingredient is the fruit, then while it has naturally occurring sugar in it, it’s not added sugar. Even if it isn’t added sugar, you probably shouldn’t eat the whole bag.
Tips to help get off sugar…
1. Be prepared with nutritious alternatives.
Once blood sugar is low and we feel like we’re starving, it’s too late. We will want carbs and sugar to get our blood sugar and energy back up again. We are also susceptible to overeating when we are in this state. Having prepared items ready to go will optimize the chance of your child or teen eating more nutritiously. It also helps to minimize (or completely remove) any easy to grab sugary treats in your pantry.
2. Eat fat.
Good fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar does. Fats also keep you fuller longer.
What are good fats? Olives, avocado, avocado oil, olive oil, whole eggs, unsweetened coconut flakes, coconut oil, grass fed butter or ghee, nuts, seeds, beans, grass fed meats, pasture raised poultry, raw non-cow cheese like goat or sheep varieties (manchego, goat cheddar, chèvre, etc.)
3. Substitute sugary treats or drinks with whole fruit.
Whole fruits (vs. fruit juice) contain fiber and are loaded with phyto-nutrients (plant vitamins) compared to sugar, which is just an empty calorie that makes foods sweet. Berries tend to have the lowest amounts of sugar, apples (and fruits in general) contain many antioxidants, and while dates have a high natural sugar content, they are also said to be anti-inflammatory, promote digestive and heart health, and boost brain health due to the vitamin B6 content. This doesn’t mean you should go crazy with dates or fruits, but they are an important addition to a balanced diet and far better than eating foods with added sugar.
4. Read Labels for added sugars and grams per serving.
Look at the ingredients and grams of sugar under Total Carbohydrates. Fruit items do contain natural sugars, which can drive up the grams of sugar content, but if one of the first three ingredients contain sugar, cane syrup, sucrose, (all names for sugar), find an alternative.
Try the following “get off sugar” options:
Veggie sticks (precut by you or the store) like jicama, cucumbers, carrots, red peppers and/or celery with a “good” fatty spread like tapenade (olive spread), hummus, tahini (sesame seed spread), guacamole or white bean dip
Celery sticks with nut or seed butter
Baked sweet potato with coconut oil or butter and cinnamon
Olives with manchego (sheep) cheese
Nuts and/or Seeds combined with superfoods like goji berries, mulberries, coconut flakes or whatever you prefer
Convenience Options (i.e. Buy, grab and go):
Mamma Chia-Chia Squeeze (comes in pouches and different flavors)
Grass Fed Beef or Turkey Sticks-Trader Joes makes a beef version called Chomps and Thrive Market (online) has The New Primal. If you try another option, make sure it is grass fed and does not contain soy.
Nuts and/or seeds in individual packets