How Can I Reduce My Child’s Sugar Intake?

It’s well known in the dental industry that sugar is bad news for teeth. Sugar combines with natural bacteria in the mouth to create acids that gradually wear away at tooth enamel, causing tooth decay. Children are often the biggest consumers of sugar, so it’s important to take stock of what you can do as a parent to reduce your child’s sugar intake. Here are some tips for lowering the sugar levels in your child’s diet.

Take note of where the sugar is coming from.

An obvious first step to reducing your child’s sugar intake would be to simply not keep sugary foods in the house, but you’d be surprised at just how many of your child’s snacks contain sugar. Take a quick inventory of what your child eats and drinks on a day-to-day basis and look for foods that are secretly high in sugar. Some sugar-rich foods that often slip past the radar are fruit juices (including 100% juices), flavored yogurts, whole wheat bread, granola bars, cereal (even whole grain cereals), and fat free dressings. Pay close attention to the nutrition facts labels on the foods you’re buying before assuming these foods are low in sugar.

Set boundaries around less healthy snacks.

The reality is that your child is probably going to enjoy a less healthy snack every now and again, and this can be okay when done in moderation. To help keep your child’s intake of these snacks in control, you should of course refrain from purchasing these treats often in the first place; but it will also help to create boundaries around these treats. For example, you might establish a rule in your household that your children must ask to have certain snacks, but they may have a healthy snack of fruits or vegetables without asking.

Plan your meals and snacks.

It’s true—the more you plan your meals and snacks ahead of time, the more likely you and your family are to eat healthier. It’s when you’re eating on the fly that you’re most likely to resort to fast food and easy, processed snacks. Try to make a habit out of planning your meals for the week and picking up a varied selection of healthy snacks each time you make a trip to the grocery store. And always be sure to keep these healthier foods on you when you’re out running errands with your child; then if your child is hungry, you can grab one of these healthier snacks rather than something processed from a vending machine.

Talk about food with your kids.

Finally, talking about food with your kids can make all the difference in helping them eat better. Put a positive spin on food as you discuss proper nutrition, pointing out that certain foods will “help build stronger bones” or “promote a healthy heart.” When your kids understand why they are eating certain foods over others, they are more likely to make consistent healthy eating choices.

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