There’s never a better time than right now to beat your families sugary snack habit! When changing eating habits with children, slow and steady is a really successful long term strategy. You need to be in this for the long haul! Adjust habits one at a time. Children’s health is so important, and we need to work hard to get it right!
1.The best, number one way, to never have kids asking for sugary treats, is to never offer them in the first place!! Don’t buy sugary treats. Don’t have them in the cupboard and don’t give in to pester power at the supermarket. For my family, I make 90% of our snacks and desserts and the other 10% I read the labels and makes sure they fit into our guidelines. Sometimes we’ll have ice cream or chocolate or cookies, however, we have “ice cream night” once a week, not every night..
2. Get your healthy eating habits in place from day dot.. And day dot, for me, comes prior to conception.. Yep, even before you have fallen pregnant you should be planning for ways to stop those kids nagging for healthy treats!! A great preconception diet is packed full of nutrient dense wholefoods, and doesn’t include processed foods. Especially sugary treats. You will have better egg and sperm quality from a diet like this, but long term, your child will have a reduced risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes!
3.When you are pregnant and breastfeeding, the foods you eat can set up a predisposition for your children for their eating preferences. Whilst you are breastfeeding, the food you consume influence the flavour of your milk and can contribute to the development of babies tastes.
4.When introducing solids, leave sugary foods until last. Begin with vegetables first. Children have extremely sensitive taste buds, and have a natural gravitation towards sweet preferences. We can tweak this habit by offering savoury foods the most.
5.Overhaul your families menu from the top down! Begin by changing processed breakfast cereals for wholegrain porridge, homemade granola with yogurt or savoury options like corn fritters, or frittata. Let your child know before they reach the end of the cereal box that this is the last time you are buying it and why.. Let them know they can stretch it out, by having half of the sugary breakfast with half of the healthier breakfast.. This way, the kids think they are getting a favour, but really you are helping their tastes adjust to the new flavour before completely removing the old… An example of this is mixing sugar and chocolate coated rice puffs with brown rice puffs, before gradually having all brown rice puffs.
6.Discuss food choices with them and talk about why lollies and treats are only for parties or sometimes foods.
7.Put the fear of excess sugar into them by showing them pictures of people with really gross teeth and tell them that this is what happens when you drink soft drinks, juices and have too much sugar!
8.Read the labels on all of the packet snacks you buy and focus on sugar content. What sugar is listed in the ingredients? Where on the ingredient list does sugar come? If it is listed first, this means it is the biggest ingredient by weight. How many grams per 100g of sugar does it contain? Try to aim for under 5g.. But the next question is how many grams per serve is it?? If it contains 5g per 100g but the serving size is 250g, then it will have 12.5g sugar in it, which is just over 3 teaspoons!
9.Make snacks that are way healthier by getting creative in the kitchen The kids will love to be involved with helping and they will be even more willing to try new things. Cut down on the amount of sugar in recipes, replace white sugar with alternatives like coconut sugar or stevia, swap white flour for wholemeal or quinoa, add veggies wherever you can, and have fun experimenting while bonding with your kids!! Focus on real foods, make your own sauces from scratch instead of using bottles or packets (more hidden sugars!), and if you are going to offer dessert, make it super healthy, like homemade banana ice-cream, fresh fruit and yogurt, nuts, or rice pudding.
10.Use a chart to reward behaviour each time your child tries something new, or that they stop whinging when asked… (you make the rules, you set the rewards- but please no food rewards!!)
The health and well being of your family should be the priority of every parent! A tiny tantrum now over a habit you can beat, is totally worth it in the end! If you continue to improve your habits each and every day, the whole family will thank you for it!