Here's 5 Cool Ways To Reduce Sugar In Your Child's Diet
First of all, let me just stress that this article isn’t for everyone. The vast majority of parents aren’t interested in reducing sugar in their child’s diet and that is absolutely fine or already have this covered.
This isn't’ meant to be a one size fits all solution. Rather a few pointers, tips and suggestions for those that are looking for ways to reduce the sugar intake of the family..
Unfortunately, our foods are designed to be more and more addictive these days. One of the easiest ways for manufacturers to do this is to add more salt and sugar in foods.
As a nation we seem to be consuming increasing amounts of sugar and children aged 4 - 10 are currently consuming double the recommended amount according to Public Health England.
So, what are the steps we can take to reduce the sugar in our children’s diet?
Eliminate or drastically reduce sugary drinks
The term “sugary” covers a whole host of different types of drinks out there. For the sake of this article we are specifically talking about sodas. fruit punch, slushies and milkshakes. These are the main culprits and not surprisingly the most popular options for kids.
Real Fruit Juice Drinks
With regards to the juice drinks, even though some of them may not be high in overall sugar content, the process of juicing eliminates the fibre once contained in the fruit.
On average an average glass of orange or apple juice contains approximately 40 grams of sugar. What a lot of parents don’t realise is this is roughly the same amount of sugar in a can of pop.
Smoothies - Depending on whether your kids have allergies or not, you can use almond or coconut milk with one cup of berries or other frozen fruit to be blended. The only thing you need to remember is that it would be preferable to use coconut or almond milk that is unsweetened.
Chocolate and white milk combo - If you can’t use almond or coconut milk, you also have the ability of mixing a milkshake with ordinary plain milk or other milk alternative. That way, your child can still taste the sweetness of the milkshake, but with less sugar consumption.
Homemade Lemonade - Making your own homemade lemonade is a great choice as an alternative to sugary drinks. You can add 1g of sugar per cup of lemonade if you like?
Serve More Vegetables And Fruits
Both children and adults should be consuming at least 5-9 servings of produce per day such as carrots, carrots, peppers, bananas and apples.
Whole fruit and vegetables contain a healthy dose of both fibre and a ton of water. The great thing is, if they do consume this recommended amount, they will feel full.
How do we eat more fruit and veg?
Start early - By this I mean start to eat them at the earliest convenience which would normally be breakfast. Of course, I’m not expecting you and your children to eat vegetables first thing in the morning, but, there’s no reason you can have chopped up fruit in a cereal or even a light omelette with a veggie filling.
Make fruit accessible - Having fruit in areas of the house where you spend a lot of time (play room, dining room or living room) will encourage your whole family to eat it. Have a set of fruit bowls in the kitchen or prepare chopped veg like carrots in a container available for snacking.
Frozen is good - A lot of people are under the misconception that frozen fruit and vegetables aren’t very good and not nutritious.. But, I can categorically say that keeping frozen fruit and veg in the house means you have easy access to them and makes food prep a lot easier and by freezing them locks in all of those lovely nutrients we know are good for us.
Whether you are cooking a stew or casserole, you can rest assured that you have the bulk of the ingredients you need in your freezer.
Eat Whole Foods That Aren’t Processed
Consuming foods in their natural state will not only ensure they receive the correct amount of nutrients per serving, they will also consume less sugar in the long run.
So why do the supermarkets prefer to sell processed food?
Increased shelf life - Typically, processed foods last a lot longer than fresh food. This means supermarkets can bulk order, store for longer periods of time and keep on the shelf a lot longer.
Holding stock longer means they very rarely throw things away due to them going bad or rotting. This means more profits in the long run and provides the consumer with considerable choice.
The only downside is, the food is not as healthy and generally packed with the usual fat, salt, sugar and other preservatives.
Improves taste - Since they are able to jam-pack their products full of sugar and salt, these are the exact same ingredients that make food taste so appealing so you continue to want more.
Makes the shape more consistent - There are no straight lines in nature, nor exact shapes. However, when you process food, you have the ability to shape it into whatever shape or style they like.
Easier to package and store - We briefly touched on the ease of storage earlier. Another benefit is the ease of packaging and transportation.
By producing food in easy stackable sizes and shapes means the supermarket can better fill their trucks for transportation and the storing of them on their shelves.
Quicker to repair and eat - Processed food has generally been already cooked, fried or part cooked. This process then makes it easy for the consumer to warm it up and consume quite quickly.
Cook More At Home
Of course, this is not the easiest option in the world. Due to the fact as parents we are all busy with work commitments. However, if you can cook more at home, it gives you more control over the salt, fat and sugar you are using as ingredients.
You have less control of the foods you buy that are processed and zero control if you buy at a restaurant.
So how do we do this?
Have to make time
By getting into a routine and picking a consistent day and time to do your shopping, you’ll find that this smooths the process to cook at home.
Cooking at home is a habit we have to relearn. It’s so easy to slip into bad habits, like grabbing something on the way back from work, it is most likely unhealthy and crammed full of salt, fat and sugar.
Develop a list of must-have kitchen items
Planning things in advance is never easy. Especially when we all have so much going on in our lives now. Sticking to a schedule without life getting in the way is something we all struggle with, but, that doesn’t mean we need to pick the easy option every time.
If you use a certain ingredient a lot in your dishes. Why not bulk buy it or if it’s perishable freeze it down? The main spices like salt, sugar and popular ingredients like garlic. Ensure you stock up on these supplies.
If you’re a fan of meat, why not buy this in bulk and freeze it for a later date? The number of people that purchase meat each week could just as easily buy this in bulk and store in the freezer. That way, you haven’t got to hunt around the supermarket each week which is a waste of time (especially if you have a bust life).
Write down meal plans
The most important of managing a meal plan is the plan itself. Before you can sit down and work out what food you need you need to work out what you are going to eat. Of course, this is obvious, but it is the foundation of a good meal plan.
We find the best time to do a meal plan is on a Sunday. That way you can plan your meals for the week ahead.
Yes I know, this will be eating (sorry for the pun) into your weekend. However, if you take 15 minutes or half an hour to plan this. It will pay you back in spades during the course of the week.
Choose one pot meals
Again, I understand this sort of thing won’t be for everyone. But, if you can inject some curries, stews or soups into your meal plan.
This will make your life so much easier in the long run. In fact, a lot of people invest in a crockpot/slow cooker that allows you to throw all of the ingredients into a pot in the morning and have it cook away during the course of the day so it is ready when you return from work.
These pots are designed to slow cook your meal making it a such a convenience so you don’t need to cook when you return home.
So how does this tie into less sugar? By producing the meals yourself from scratch. You have the choice of cooking with the exact portions you want with less salt and sugar if you like. It also means that you will have less takeaways and less processed foods.
Pack Snacks Ahead Of Time
This is one point that so many of us don’t think about. It is so much easier to grab a snack on the fly when we’re out with the kids. Those vending machines are so convenient, but they rarely have anything healthy in them with a low sugar content. However, we have less
Here’s some healthy snacks:
- Pre-cut vegetables - (carrots – cut into strips, coins or spiralized - peppers – cut into strips or chunks)
- Pre-cut fruit - (apples – tossed in lemon water to keep fresh or grapes – washed and de-stemmed)
- Muffins/backed goods/healthy granola bars - (Apple Cinnamon Muffins for Kids - Chocolate Whole Wheat Muffins with Pear)
- Hummus or dip - (Sweet Potato + Chickpea Thai Hummus for Kids - Healthy Honey Mustard for Kids)