Child obesity is a big problem worldwide, maybe not so much in India. But more and more incidents of diabetes and hypertension are getting known in kids as young as 13 or 14. This is an alarming situation and most parents want their kids to eat healthy from a young age. But consumerism means they are exposed to advertisements and made to believe that sugary treats are not just tasty but cool. Kids as young as 1 and 2 want to have soda and soft drinks instead of water.There are also kids who have get their cavities filled and even worse, teeth extracted at the age of 3.
The key lies in foundation and let us have a look at few things that we can do as parents to help our kids consume less sugar.
Keep food as close to natural as possible
Food which tells where it comes from is best. It means lesser the processing, better it is. So as long as possible, serve plain yogurt instead of sweet or flavored, serve chicken in places of sausages, serve plain paneer or fresh natural cheese instead of processed cheese, serve whole grains instead of refined. Try making sweet treats at home as they are healthier and you can control the amount of kind of sugar that goes in. So, add bananas and honey to muffins for sweetness instead of using sugar or add jaggery in sweetmeats.
Give naturally sweet flavors
Our taste buds crave sweet things, so give your child naturally sweet things like fresh fruits. A toddler is only exposed to what she sees at home, so if you serve fruits regularly, she will automatically start enjoying the fresh, subtle taste. When you have to, add natural sweeteners like honey to desserts.
I have seen many children who prefer having grapes or oranges to a bar of chocolate.
No sweets at home
If you want your kids to have less sugary stuff, you will have to make it less available. There is no point telling your kids not to have soda and chocolates if you refrigerator is full of those. Make a point not to store these things at home. By removing these you are also removing the temptation for your child. Instead, keep your fridge stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables and your pantry brimming with nuts and dry fruits for healthy snacking.
Desserts only to be occasional treats
Do not make desserts essential part of every meal. In fact they should just be for special occasions like celebrations. Also choose healthy desserts like a fruit yogurt cakes and cookies made from natural sweeteners and wholewheat flour.
Check recipes for healthy desserts here.
Make portions smaller
If you have to or you have promised sweets, make the portions small. That will satisfy the craving without giving them a sweet tooth. Give a small gem or M&M in place of a chocolate bar. Most probably your child will not protest if you are consistent. Make mini muffins instead large jumbo muffins.
Keep it consistent
Talk to your family and child’s caregiver that you are limiting sugar, so that she should not get sugar at other places. There is no point in you being strict if she gets an overload of it in her grandparent’s place or if a favorite uncle or aunt regularly supplies her with that bar of chocolate.
Do not ban completely
Lastly, limit the sugar but do not ban it completely. Everything in moderation is the key. The idea here is to instil in children sugar is not the only thing to have and there are plenty of healthier and tastier treats around. Such kids are more likely to self-regulate their sugar intake and learn to enjoy other stuff when they become independent.