For me sugar is synonymous to hyperactivity, tooth decay, addiction in kids and the most dreadful -obesity. Of course, many factors contribute to children’s weight problems, but excessive sugar consumption tops the list. Curbing sugar from your toddler’s diet is not difficult; if done with proper care and planning.
The first and the foremost thing we can do curb sweets from our kids diet is by not keeping a stack of chocolates, candies, toffees, chocolate cookies, cakes, muffins chocolate wafers, mithai etc at home. So clean up the refrigerators today itself. The more the merrier is their motto.
I am not against the fact of completely eradicating sweets from the child’s diet. It is a major source of energy; but I believe in strategically introducing sweets at a specific time of the day. My favourite slot is when my son heads out to play- I don’t mind if he gobbles up a laddo before heading out; keeps him energetic and vitalised.
However informative the advertisements are- packaged fruit juices are just not right for the kids or rather even for us adults. Even if you are buying the “no added sugar” juice, it is still sugar. So replace the packaged juice with fresh fruit juice made at home with the right amount of sugar content. I remember my mother juicing up oranges, carrots and apple with drops of honey for our sweet tooth.
Children are meant to have the sweet tooth; considering their first ever food; breast milk is sweet. So it’s natural for them to have these cravings every now and then. Replace the chocolates/candies with chocolate covered almonds/raisins or rice crispy treats which satisfies their sweet tooth along with filling up their tummies. Even while serving dessert/sweets to kids- give small servings. Stick to one bowl of kheer, one slice of cake etc. And try to restrict that to just one helping. I also recommend prevent sugar intake after 7 pm considering sleep time is near and that might just give them an inevitable sugar rush.
Even after kids are weaned off from mother’s milk, they are introduced to solid foods that are basically sweet in content and nature. Mashed bananas, sooji halwa, cerelac etc. But simultaneously also introduce besan cheela, vegetable parantha etc so that they don’t just depend on the sugary items to satisfy their hunger.
Always remember to check for food labels while shopping. It is not just sugar you are looking for. On the packaging also look for contents like fructose, glucose, fruit juice concentrate, syrup, molasses etc which basically are substitutes of sugar.
While kids grow up, it is easy to talk to them about how excess sugar in their foods can harm them. When they are intelligent enough to understand, highlight the positives like “how it helps strengthening bones” instead of “how they make you fat”.
Most parents including myself have done this mistake of attaching sweets with emotions. Keep emotions away! Like offering a sweet when they are hurt or rewarding them with extra ice cream when they do good job. This combination just does not work in the long run.
Lastly remember to make them brush their teeth every night, sweet or no sweet!!
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