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Strategies for lowering your child’s sugar consumption

Most children consume more sugar than parents realise. While treats can have a place in your child’s diet, they shouldn't be given every day.

Did you know that, according to several worldwide studies, children consume an average of 10kg of sugar per year, with around half coming from sugary drinks and snacks?

As with anything, too much sugar during childhood may lead to unhealthy cravings as kids grow older. In excess, sugar can lead to obesity, which puts a child at risk for developing high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels and type 2 diabetes (where the body’s response to insulin is not regulated).

While encouraging youngsters to eat nutritious snacks is not as simple as emptying the cupboards, it is not impossible.

Here’s how to make things easier.

Be imaginative

There is a limit to how much carrot sticks and hummus somebody can consume before becoming bored, so you will need to get creative with the food on offer. This is the time to go overboard with Pinterest-worthy masterpieces. Bright colours and intriguing textures, as well as blending well-known flavours with new ones, will entice your child to try healthier food options.

Don’t buy sugary beverages

Parents are constantly reminded that even seemingly healthful beverages frequently contain multiple teaspoons of sugar. While carbonated beverages are often considered the least nutritious option, fruit juice and smoothies are not as healthy as they appear. Because flavoured water and squash may also include sugar, the ideal beverage for children is plain water. While many children will protest the flavour, adding a squeeze of lemon or orange juice or infusing a large jug with mint and strawberries will help change their minds.

Do not prohibit, but do exercise control

As research has repeatedly demonstrated, prohibiting foods increases their appeal to children. Indeed, the strength of forbidden items has been argued to extend to good foods such as fruit. The occasional biscuit or chocolate bar will not jeopardise a child’s eating health habits, as long as they are limited to one or two per week.

As a general guideline, avoid keeping sugary snacks in the house, avoid serving them unless the children specifically want them, and limit the quantity supplied if they do. Explain to children why it is necessary to limit those items as well, as teaching kids about their own health will be more effective in the long run than simply saying no.

Consider meals as well

While it is simpler to target snacks, it is important to remember that sugar consumption should be reduced holistically. If sugary drinks and snacks account for half of children’s overall sugar consumption, meals must account for the other half. Consider limiting desserts and sugary breakfasts as well.

Lead by example

Children observe adults and hence it is critical for parents to make healthy choices as well. Children who participate in frequent family dinners are more likely to consume fruit and vegetables and develop better healthy eating habits in general that they can carry into adulthood. Apply the same rules to everyone in the family, and you’ll find that the children aren’t the only ones who benefit.

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