How would you feel if you knew your child was having nearly 5 teaspoons of sugar with breakfast? Considering that’s the amount in a standard cup of juice, it's no wonder so many parents are looking for simple ways to cut out these excess sugars in their toddlers’ diets. Here’s how you can do it – and get your toddler on board with it too.
It’s officially recommended that kids under 2 years of age don’t consume any added sugars, while kids over 2 should have no more than 6 teaspoons a day – and for good reason. Studies show kids are at an elevated risk of facing developmental problems and long-term health consequences like obesity and diabetes when exposed to a high-sugar diet from early childhood.
If you’re looking for more reasons to start weaning your toddler off sugar, research has found kids have a stronger taste for the sweet stuff than adults, making it easier for them to form addictions. This, combined with an underdeveloped brain, and therefore less self-control, puts toddlers at far more risk than their parents when it comes to getting hooked on sugar. Here are some of the adverse effects of excess sugar:
- Increased aggression in kids
- Higher risk for mood disorders
- Higher risk for obesity
- Weaker immune system
- Brain fog and learning problems
Excess sugar consumption puts toddlers’ ongoing development at risk, with one study indicating the hippocampus was negatively affected by a high-sugar diet. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory and learning function. Plus, excess sugar consumption can also lead to sugar spikes – the result? A restless toddler. Take a look at some of the signs of a blood sugar spike:
- Pale skin
- Blurred vision
- Hunger or thirst
- Racing heart
Unstable blood sugars can cause irritability, anxiety and headaches in kids, and it can even mess with their sleep cycle. So, it’s no wonder so many parents are keen to wean their toddlers off sugar before it sets off a chain of long-term consequences.
Here’s how you can do it.
Make sure they don’t drink their sugar.
One of the best ways to slowly reduce your child’s dependency on sugar, is by taking sugar-laden drinks out of the equation. It’s one step in the direction of cutting added sugars out completely, without setting off a spate of withdrawal symptoms. Sugar in liquids tends to pack a bigger punch than solids, and that’s because drinks tend to have a bigger serving size and a higher concentration of sugar than their solid counterparts. Here’s what to do instead.
Ditch the juice: Juice has a far more concentrated amount of sugar than regular fruit, and to make matters worse, it lacks the nutrient which slows our absorption of sugar: fibre. So go for whole fruit instead, which also contains more of the essential vitamins that are lost in the juice production process. Studies even show fruit juice is associated with an increased risk for obesity. In its whole form, fruit also has slow-release energy which helps to keep your toddler fuller for longer and helps curb those sugar cravings.
Limit soft drink and flavoured milk: Soft drinks are packed full of added sugars, with some dosing you with more than 25 grams per serve – that’s the entire daily recommendation for adult women in just one drink. Yikes. If you’re looking to give your toddler milk for the calcium or protein content, this is fine, just be sure that it’s plain milk, not chocolate or strawberry flavoured. These may be labelled as health drinks or kid-friendly, but chances are, it’s packed with added sugars.
Up their fibre intake.
Recent studies have shown that eating sugar without the fibre – for instance, fruit juice without the fibre of fruit or highly processed grains stripped of their fibre content – increases the risk for metabolic syndrome, liver diseases and obesity. Make sure your toddler is eating foods with the least amount of processing and added sugars as possible, including the following:
- Whole fruit and veggies
- Whole grains like wholemeal bread, quinoa and buckwheat
- Legumes like lentils, chickpeas and mung beans
- Fermented foods like yoghurt, kimchi and Sauerkraut (These are good for the gut microbiome)
- Nuts and seeds
Switch up your snacks.
Snacks between meals can be a sneaky source of added sugars for your toddlers, often without you even knowing. Many products are labelled as “all natural” and “health foods”, but if you take a closer look at the ingredients and nutritional profile, you may be surprised at the sugars and preservatives in the products. This is the time to do an overhaul on your snack choices, and find out which ones you can switch. If you’re buying processed snacks, opt for low or no sugar alternatives. Muesli bars, for instance, should be less than 5 grams of sugar per serve, while yoghurt should be plain with no added sugars.
Make your own: There’s no better way to know what’s going into your food than when you make it yourself. Using real, whole ingredients, you can whip up some tasty snacks that don’t leave your toddlers craving more sugary foods. Opt for high-fibre foods, from sugar-free oatmeal cookies to fruit and peanut butter, there are a range of nutritionally-balanced snacks that taste good too. If you’re in need of some inspiration, take a look at the recipe below, it’s a classic from the I Quit Sugar Kid's CookbookeBook.
Dino Cookie Bites.
- ¼ cup natural, sugar-free, salt-free peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon rice malt syrup (only include this ingredient for kids over 12 months old)
- ½ cup coconut cream
- ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
- ½ teaspoon sea salt flakes
- ½ cup coconut flour
- cup chilled, cooked quinoa
- In a large bowl mix together the peanut butter, rice malt syrup, coconut cream and coconut oil.
- Add the sea salt flakes, coconut flour and quinoa and mix to form dough. Add a little more coconut flour if the mixture is too runny to form into balls.
- Pinch off little pieces of the dough and roll into walnut-sized balls. Store in an airtight container and consume within three days.
Need a little extra help kicking the sugar cravings? Join us for the 8-Week Program where we’ll be quitting sugar and taking our lives back into our own hands. When you sign up with us, you’ll have access to clear-cut meal plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:
- 8 weeks of meal plans and shopping lists.
- 90+ member-only recipes.
- Community forums to share your journey.
- Support and expert guidance from the I Quit Sugar team.
If you're ready to ditch sugar and the host of maladies that come with it – JOIN NOW!
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