My kid eats way too much sugar. How do I change bad habits we’ve developed without cutting him off completely?
Elizabeth Kwarta, registered dietitian, M.S., R.D.
Setting your child up with healthy eating habits is one of the most important things you can do for his or her long-term health. For many parents, sugar is a big concern when it comes to their child’s diet. If your child is addicted to sugar, follow these tips:
- Keep the sugary treats and sugar sweetened beverages such as juice, soda, and sports drinks out of the house. Having these foods in the house can be a constant temptation for children and often for parents, too.
- Reserve sweet treats and beverages for special occasions such as birthdays or other celebrations.
- Make water the staple beverage in your home.
- Keep the house stocked with healthy, easy-to-eat foods your children like, such as strawberries, hummus and veggies, and low-sugar yogurt. If your child is used to sweet treats after every meal, offer healthy alternatives such as homemade popsicles (blend and freeze yogurt and fruit) instead of ice cream.
- Get your children involved in the preparation process of these healthy alternatives. You might be amazed at what your children will try and like if they are involved in the preparation. Generally, treats we make in the home will have far less sugar than processed, store-bought foods.
- If sugary cereals are a favorite in your home, continue to allow that cereal, but ask your child to mix it half and half with a no-added-sugar, whole grain cereal. Or, offer half of a bowl of the favorite cereal after eating a half bowl of the healthier cereal. Small changes can make big differences.
Gradually, add in new healthy alternatives and decrease sugar offered to your child each day. It might take time, but your children will adjust and the whole family will be on a path to long-term health.