We all need sugar (glucose) to live. It is what feeds our brains and every cell in our body. We know too much is bad for us and we all seem to be concerned with how much our kids are consuming. However there are different kinds of sugars and many sources. Sodas and juices seem to be obvious culprits. The CDC has recently announced that sugar sweetened beverages contribute to many of the major diseases in this country like obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Since SSBs are a major source of our kids’ calorie intake (up to one third of our teenagers’), I think it’s safe to say that we should all be cutting back on sodas and juices as a starting point. I talk about drinking sugar in more detail here. However, a lot of kids are not drinking sodas and moms are already cutting down on their juice intake (well done mommies!). So how do we reduce their sugar intake from other hidden sources? Here are a few ideas:

  • Choose fruit with a low glycemic load. Those include berries, peaches, pears, apples, citrus, watermelon. Glycemic load is the combination of the GI index rating and the carbohydrate load. Some more info can be found here. Eat whole fruit rather than juicing because our little ones needs more fiber. Smoothies are a good option also but only 8oz a day. If the fruit is on EWG’s ‘dirty dozen‘ list then do your best to find an organic version.
  • Reduce their daily consumption of fruit juices to 4-6 oz, even if organic. I would prefer no juice at all but that’s not always easy to do. Use small glasses at breakfast and nix the lunchtime juice box. There are some great inexpensive water canteens for kids out there. Give them a try!
  • Reduce their intake of dried fruit like raisins, cranraisins and dried apricots to a small (child’s) handful at a time. These are usually made with high fructose corn syrup and we want to avoid HFCS at all costs. A small box of raisins can have 25g of sugar/HFCS.
  • Make treats at home to avoid the processed cookies, cakes and candy. We can’t avoid it fully, so if you want to include treats, try making them at home from scratch! Involve your kids in the baking and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Add some super foods into the mix to improve nutritional value, for example spirulina powder or raw cacao powder.
  • Switch sauces and dressings to organic versions. Most sugar and HFCS is GMO so check the labels for these products to see if they contain hidden sugars – ketchup, mayonnaise, some soups, sauces, breads, bagels and pickles to name a few. The organic versions may have less sugar or none at all.
  • Opt for low sugar snacks like fruit, nuts and raw veggies and dip (no sugar). It’s hard when kids are on the go, but with some planning it can be done. I love this list from 100 Days of Real Food.
  • Finally but most importantly, get them to drink more water. Its sounds easy but we need to add more of the good stuff to crowd out the bad stuff. If they don’t love water right away (they will), infuse it with fresh fruit. Drinking lemon water has many benefits also.

Making small changes over time will make it easier to incorporate them into your daily routine. It’s so important to balance our kids’ blood sugar throughout the day and get into good habits. Starting the day off with a protein breakfast will help achieve that goal. If we make these small efforts on a daily basis, it will make it easier to allow our kids to indulge at parties if they want to. Over time, as their craving for the sweet stuff diminishes, they may make better choices at those parties.