With the excitement of holiday breaks, the everyday hustle of school, work, and activities can seem overwhelming. One great way to help your kids cope through it all is to make sure they are getting proper nutrition.
According to the Mayo Clinic, while kids are eating less sugar today than they were in 2000, they are still getting close to 16% of their daily calories from sugar. Ideally, sugar should be limited to 5 – 15% of daily calories.
Children who eat whole foods that are low in sugar are more successful in school and have an easier time paying attention, according to Dr. Ann Kulze (via She Knows).
Like most parents, you’re probably attentive to how many sweets your kids eat, but do you know other ways to cut out sugar and help your kids succeed? It can actually be easier than you think to limit kids sugar intake.
Let’s examine meal by meal:
Depending on what you’re kids are already eating for breakfast, here are a couple quick substitutions:
- Substitute homemade oatmeal sweetened with honey for instant oatmeal.
- Trade sugary cereals for homemade granola made with honey and coconut oil.
- Offer eggs and toast instead of a “breakfast substitute” drink.
But if your kids aren’t big on breakfast or are always in a rush in the morning. Use this banana trick. When you have bananas that are going bad at home, store them in your freezer and use them to make real fruit smoothies. Smoothies sweetened with honey or agave nectar can quickly become a family favorite.
Opt to make your kids’ lunch so you can keep track of what is in them. It’s a good rule of thumb to eliminate all food and drink sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.
- Include truly whole fruit and nut bars (try Larabars) instead of the common sugary ones.
- Check the bread you are using for high fructose corn syrup and find a bread that doesn’t have any.
- Use all natural almond butter sweetened with honey as an alternative to peanut butter.
- Cut up or peel whatever fruit you are including in their lunch to encourage them to eat it. Kids are more apt to eat a peeled orange.
To make sure that kids don’t completely blow off your packed lunch, make sure to add something sweet as a treat – but a healthy sweet! Include their favorite fruits as treats, like strawberries or grapes. They won’t miss the sweets if there are fruits they really like. Pack what is in season as it will be sweetest.
After School Snacks
Snack foods are the worst danger zone in terms of kids’ sugar intake.
But it’s important to change it up and be creative to keep your kids interested in healthy snacks. All natural almond butter with bananas on whole wheat bread is hearty fuel if your kid participates in after school sports. With the added bananas they won’t even notice they are missing the jelly or the sugar in their peanut butter.
Or if they’re allergic or not into nut butter, thawed frozen fruit is pretty juicy and delicious over plain yogurt. Re-purpose the homemade granola from breakfast as a crunchy yogurt topping.
Five more quick snack ideas to keep in rotation:
- Buy and offer whole wheat crackers.
- Read the ingredients and check for added sugar.
- Set out cheese cut in cute shapes.
- Use celery, almond butter and raisins to make “ants on a log”.
- Dried fruit is a perfect substitute for fruit snacks if your kids are hooked on them already.
Make dinner from scratch even if you don’t have a lot of time. There are a lot of quick meals you can keep supplies on hand for.
- Bake chicken with asparagus
- Make a pork tenderloin, sweet potatoes and green bean casserole
- Use a crock pot to slow cook large batches of food you can serve several times in one week such as chili, chicken and rice, pot roast, and soups.
Most sugar reaches your kids’ diets through processed foods so if you are making dinner yourself you will skip all those tablespoons of added sugar in pasta sauce and canned soups.
In place of sugary desserts, serve wholesome sweet foods like fruit or yogurt or offer a small dessert. Encourage your kids to savor one small bite of chocolate, just one cookie, or a tiny dish of coconut milk ice cream as a treat. If you model these behaviors yours kids will learn to get on board, especially if you make it fun.
By making these small simple changes you will quickly start cutting all the extra sugar out of your kids’ diets and help them feel better and be more focused at school.
If you need more ideas, you can find thousands of healthy recipes at thefoodee.com and nearly every question you have about healthy eating can be answered at marksdailyapple.com.
This is a guest post by Molly Heckendorn, parent of Hudson, healthy eating advocate, and real estate agent in Dallas, TX.