Q: My daughter has a huge sweet tooth! How do I prevent her from eating too much sugar around the holiday season?
A:The amount of sugar our children are consuming is at an all time high. In fact, the average child consumes approximately 29 teaspoons of sugar per day! With the consumption of soft drinks doubling in the past 25 years and refined flours and packaged products at an all time high, sugar consumption is wreaking havoc on the younger generation.
Children naturally enjoy sweet tasting food. Unfortunately, a majority of food found in our grocery stores is overloaded with white sugar. For example, the average pop contains nine to11 teaspoons of white sugar! How do you know if a food item contains sugar? Look at the ingredient list, which is listed in order of most to least. If the first one or two words list "glucose", "sugar", or "high fructose corn syrup" the food item in question is mainly made up of sugar. Eating too much sugar and refined flours in the diet can be linked to several health conditions in children such as:
• Type 2 diabetes
• Food allergies
• Behavioural issues (such as ADD)
• Dental decay
• Low energy/mood swings
• Stomach upset
During the holiday season, with cookies and cakes swirling around, children tend to eat more than their share of sugar. In order to reduce the amount they consume and still provide your little ones with holiday fun food, simply offer your children sweet and healthy treats such as the following.
Healthy treats for the kids
Fruit and dips
Children love to dip their food, especially when it's into chocolate. Cut up strawberries, apples, pears and bananas and allow your child to dip it into dark chocolate which has been shown to be good for health!
Make homemade oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies with whole grain flour that can be found in most bulk food sections. Cut the amount of sugar the recipe calls for in half – your child will never taste the difference.
Healthy trail mix
Visit the bulk section of your grocery store and create a trail mix that contains nuts, seeds, raisins and a few chocolate chips or M&Ms for a sweet surprise.
Visit your local health food store and invest in a chocolate protein powder that has been naturally sweetened. Add ½ cup of soymilk or low fat milk, ½ banana, 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder and some crushed ice to your blender and blend on high for 60 seconds. Voila! Your child will enjoy a creamy chocolate delight!
Remember, even with the suggestions above, your child will likely fall off the health wagon a bit more than usual during the holiday season. Do not fret if they do, it is bound to happen. I have met far too many parents who are overly strict with their children's diet and have created sugar monsters as a backlash effect. Allow your child to indulge a bit so they do not feel deprived and compensate at home by stocking your cupboards with healthy, nourishing foods.
Dr. Joey Shulman D.C., RNCP, is author of Winning the Food Fight (Wiley 2003) and The Natural Makeover Diet (in stores Jan. 2006). For more information, visit www.drjoey.com.