End your child‘s sugar addiction in six months time with a few simple steps.
Or then again … maybe not.
Today’s toddlers are getting 12 teaspoons a day of the sweet stuff rather than the recommended four, says the American Heart Association (AHA), so it’s no wonder that childhood obesity grows out of control come the tween years. Sugar addiction gains traction as kids age. According to the AHA, instead of the recommended 5 to 8 teaspoons of sugar a day for preteens and teens, many of them are indulging in a whopping 34 teaspoons. It’s a downhill battle if you allow toddlers to consume sugar without restraint, says author Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D., in her bestseller, Little Sugar Addicts. So what can you do to help your child develop a healthy appetite for nutritious food?
START WITH THE DRINKS
First, take a look at what your family sips. The AHA reports that Americans drink most of their added sugar in the form of soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages. And, according to The American Journal of Preventative Medicine, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages with meals has doubled. One 12-ounce cola has 8.2 teaspoons of sugar; that adds up to 140 calories. Switching to water or low-fat milk will make a huge dent in kids’ sugar consumption.
Even 100-percent fruit juice contributes sugar and calories that kids may be better off without. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting fruit juice to six ounces for children younger than 7 and 12 ounces for older kids. Stretch the smaller servings by diluting juice with water, or create a healthier alternative to soda by mixing juice with seltzer.
MOVE ON TO THE FOOD
Next, work on meals. Start at the top – of the day, that is. According to DesMaisons, breakfast is absolutely essential, setting the stage for a healthful day, and eating the right foods in the a.m. helps ward off sugar cravings later on.
Lose the sugary breakfast cereals and choose types with no more than eight grams of sugar per serving. Instead of candy-coated pastries, serve protein and complex carbohydrates like eggs and whole-grain toast or protein shakes made with fruit. Kids will feel satisfied, alert and ready to start their day. After kids have accepted a new breakfast routine, move on to lunch, dinner and snacks.
Gradually replace sugary foods with healthy alternatives and give kids time to adjust to each change. Plan to spend anywhere from two weeks to six months on the whole process, says DesMaisons, depending on their level of sugar consumption, attachment to sweet foods and temperament.