When most parents first introduce solids to their babies, they choose healthy, natural, wholesome foods. No additives. No salt. No sugar.
As parents, we often prioritise fresh and natural ingredients because our own diet isn’t good enough. From my own experience, having a six-month-old and a two-year-old, my kids often ate better than I did, mostly because I planned their meals better and gave myself no other option but to give them healthy food.
But as out little ones grow and they begin to eat a wider range of foods, convenience and social pressure creeps in and we start to introduce packaged foods…and also sugar.
So, how can you raise a sugar-free baby? The most important step is to make a decision. If you decide that your children and family will have a healthy and nutritious diet that’s sugar-free, this will guide your planning and daily decisions when buying food and cooking meals.
Here are a few tips to help along the way:
Consider new foods as you introduce them.
As your baby is growing and expanding their diet, check the ingredients before introducing new foods and pick sugar-free products and recipes. It’s a lot easier to keep sugar out when we don’t let it in in the first place.
Help them fill up on good, nutritious food.
When your little one can fill their tummy on the good stuff, with plenty of healthy fats, protein and veggies, they won’t have any appetite or room left for the sugary foods they might have otherwise wanted. Don’t wait until your child is ravenous – offer regular meals and nutritious snacks to keep them energised and satisfied.
Make it tasty, not sugary.
The good news is, kids don’t need sugar to enjoy food! Babies and kids learn to like food through tasting. While it might take them a few tries before they like certain foods, that’s okay.
There are many ways to offer tasty (and sweet!) foods without the sugar. Add fresh or dried herbs, a squeeze of lemon, a little spice, a dollop of tzatziki or satay sauce, or a sprinkle of cheese. Fresh fruit and sweet-tasting veggies, rice malt syrup or stevia are great options for those recipes that need a little sweetness.
Ditch the packets!
As humans, we love a sweet taste and food companies know it. This is why sugar is hidden in so many supermarket foods, even in inconspicuous places like pasta sauces, crackers and yoghurt.
Resist the temptation to buy those perfectly packaged kids foods full of processed ingredients, salt and sugar. They’ll mess with your child’s palate and eventually cause them to prefer those foods. Get baking with wholesome, sugar-free recipes or find alternative easy-to-prepare snacks. There are SO many options!
Educate your kids about sugar and healthy eating.
Knowledge is power. Your kids can learn a lot through the healthy habits you encourage at home. You don’t need to demonise sugar, but you can help your child learn how to make healthy food choices by explaining how sugar affects their body. For example, ‘if you want energy to play and feel happy all afternoon, a sugary snack won’t do!’
Don’t forget to talk about nutritious foods and how they help them grow, learn, sleep, fight viruses and run fast!
Control what you can.
There will be times when your child is offered sugary foods or alternatives are difficult. Don’t fret about the occasional birthday cake, lolly bag or nana’s cookies. Offer nutritious foods and avoid sugar as often as you can.