Kids and sugar just seem to be attracted to each other, no matter how hard parents try to get them interested in different foods.
If your kid has a sweet tooth, is there really anything you can do to change it?
We certainly think so, and we want other parents to find their own solution to taming their kids’ sweet tooth too. Here are 12 simple tips that helped us tackle it.
1. Always Give Kids A Healthy Choice
When you’re providing kids with a snack option, always provide a healthy option in the mix. Even if they don’t always choose the healthy option, this is the first step in training them that healthy foods are better than sweet ones. So offer them both a piece of fruit, and/or a muesli bar. Remember, the ‘sweet’ option should still be at the healthier end of this scale.
2. Avoid Using Sweets As A Reward
Kids love sweets so much that it’s easy to fall into the trap of using them as a reward or punishment to help get things done. However, offering sweets as a reward, or threatening to remove them as a punishment, is actually not a good idea. It fosters a love-hate relationship with sweets, and makes kids see them as emotionally-charged foods that they ‘deserve’ or feel guilty about eating.
3. Be Aware Of Liquid Sugars
Parents often forget that one of the biggest sources of sugar in the average over-indulger’s diet comes from liquid sugars. Beverages like flavoured milks, soft drinks and fruit juice contain large amounts of sugar, and in the case of milks and juice they’re often given to kids as ‘healthy’ options. Parents need to think very carefully about their own child’s sugar intake from liquids, and ask whether this is encouraging their sweet tooth.
4. Involve Kids In Shopping, Cooking
Kids who are involved in the process are more able to connect to the process. When you involve them in shopping for foods and also cooking healthy foods, they’re able to see the difference between these home-cooked foods and the processed variety. This might not be an overnight process, but as time goes on, kids will have that nutritional foundation that will help them make healthy choices in the future.
5. Don’t Have Sweets In The House
Some parents find the best way to ensure your child’s sweet tooth controlled is not to have any sweets in the house. Now, this is unlikely to work for everyone, but certainly keeping the ‘worst’ sweets out of your home and keeping somewhat healthy alternatives might be the answer for your family. At the very least, it helps to keep sweets out of sight, and therefore out of mind.
6. Make Your Own Healthy Sweets
If you want to ease your kids out of a habit of eating sweet foods, one option is to make your own sweet foods so they can see first hand what is actually going into the foods that they love so much. The good thing about making your own sweets is you can make healthy substitutions, adding fruit, oats and other whole fibres to your baked goods that will keep kids fuller for longer. You can also make your own ice-cream out of frozen fruit, yoghurt and whole milk.
7. Limit Portion Sizes
One of the most difficult things about processed sweet foods is that it’s almost impossible to stick to portion sizes. When you do eat processed foods, make sure you stick to the portion sizes to the letter, only putting out as much as your kids should be eating, instead of the whole packet. When you’re making your own sweet foods, you can literally make them small, by baking mini muffins and cookies to satiate their sweet cravings.
8. Put Healthy Foods On Display
Keeping sweet foods out of sight and out of mind is one thing, but another way to help your kids tame their sweet tooth is to make healthy foods visible and accessible. Snacking is often a secondary thing for children, so providing easily accessible fruits and vegetables, cut up if possible, for them to snack on is a smart choice. When these foods are more regularly around, they’re likely to opt for them more often.
9. Plan Healthy, Regular Meals
If your child snacks a lot, but then isn’t hungry when actual meals roll around, it’s time to change up their timetable. Kids need to eat regularly to stop them having the urge to snack, and the best foods for them to eat are healthy ones that will keep them full even over the course of an energetic day. Take some time to put together a solid meal plan that allows you and your partner to deliver these meals to your kids, instead of relying on unhealthy processed foods to fill the gaps.
10. Avoid Every Day Dessert
Dessert is great, but it’s definitely not something that is eaten on a daily basis. If you and your family are in the habit of eating dessert every day, make some changes in your routine. Offer only fruit as a dessert most of the time, with occasional healthy dessert options like frozen fruit ice cream, homemade baked goods and so on. When kids expect dessert, they’re more likely to crave it, instead of just being pleasantly surprised by getting it.
11. Don’t Totally Limit Them
Many parents respond to a child’s sweet tooth by totally limiting sweet foods in their lives. However, as many deprived children will tell you as adults, this only leads to overeating and binging the second that parents aren’t around to control them. While you might be able to stop your child from eating sweet foods at home, they may have access at friends’ houses, birthday parties, and even through their own pocket money. Instead of totally limiting sweet foods, encourage your child to see them as sometimes foods they can be enjoyed, and don’t have to be eaten with guilt, providing they’re balanced with healthy nutrition and exercise.
12. Inform Them About Nutrition
Kids get a significant portion of what they know about food and nutrition from their parents, so it’s u
p to you to take the time to properly educate them about food. The best time to do this is around the kitchen and the dinner table, when you can talk to them about healthy food options, why processed and sweet foods aren’t that good for us, and how to strike a balance. Encourage an open discussion about food and health, and allow them to ask questions and try new things. This is what creates a healthy eater.