5 Ways to Control Your Child’s Sweet Tooth

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October 30, 2014


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Are you ready for the scary truth? The average trick-or-treat haul contains three cups of sugar and 4,800 calories, according to researchers. For many families, Halloween is the first in a series of celebrations full of candies and desserts. Here are five tips to help control your child’s sweet tooth, and set your family on the path to healthy eating.  

Tip #1: Set a good example.

Children aren’t the only ones eating too much sugar. Many adults do, too, says Natalie Castro, a registered dietitian with Baptist Health. “Parents set the example for their children,” she said. “If parents don’t eat fruits and vegetables, their children won’t either.”

Healthy eating is a family affair, Ms. Castro explains. Changing a child’s behavior often starts with changing the family’s behavior. It may help parents to know that craving sweets is a learned behavior. This means that craving healthier foods also can be learned. She recommends making gradual changes by reducing the amount of sugary, processed foods you have in your pantry and offering a variety of healthy alternatives.   

Tip # 2: Replace sweets with healthy options.

Take away the temptation to snack on sweets by keeping them tucked away until you serve them, and making healthy options easily accessible. The foods you have front and forward in your refrigerator and pantry will influence your children’s eating patterns.

“If given the option, kids will reach for sweets and processed foods when they want a snack,” Ms. Castro said. “But cookies, chips, candy and sodas are not snacks. Snacks should be small meals with nutritional value.”  

Ms. Castro suggests replacing “junk food” with better options such as:

  • Fruit and veggie plates.
  • Chicken and cheese quesadillas.
  • Cheese and whole wheat crackers.
  • Apple slices with peanut butter.
  • Banana drizzled with a bit of dark chocolate.  
  • Tip #3: Make healthier, homemade treats.

    The more you cook at home, the more control you have over the quality of the ingredients that go in to the foods your children eat. Cooking is a great family activity. Take some time to make homemade treats and desserts such as muffins, sweet breads, granola bars, fruit cobbler and pudding. Be sure to follow recipes that call for more wholesome ingredients like whole wheat flour, oats, nuts, fruits, veggies and low-fat dairy. Your homemade versions will be much healthier than the highly processed, packaged variety.  

    “Parents can find great recipes online for healthier desserts. You can even try things like chocolate pudding made with avocado, brownies made with black beans and dark chocolate chip cookies made with zucchini,” Ms. Castro added. “You will be surprised how good they taste.”

    Tip #4: Limit sugary drinks.

    Most sodas, fruit juices and sports drinks are loaded with sugar, so it’s best not to have them in your home. In fact, the World Health Organization announced recently that drinking just one can of Coke, which has 35 grams of sugar, puts kids and adults over the recommended daily sugar intake. It’s also important to note that fruit juice is not a substitute for real fruit, says Ms. Castro. Limit your child’s intake of sweetened beverages to parties and outings and serve water and milk at home.

    Tip #5: Don’t make sweets special.

    Ms. Castro warns that always saying no to sweets puts too much emphasis on the behavior and can backfire. “If parents are too restrictive, children will want what is forbidden,” she explained. “And parents should not use food as a reward or withhold it as punishment.”

    It’s better to be neutral in how you present sweets by treating them like just another food on your menu verses regarding them as a special treat. By properly managing sweets, your children will learn the art of moderation – a healthy habit that will serve them well for years to come.  

    Related Stories:
  • Added Sugars Amount to More Heart Risks
  • Recipes for Fun: Cooking With Kids
  • New Sugar Guidelines: Cut Down on Hidden Sugar
  • Want to learn more about the dangers of sugar?

    Watch Sweet Revenge: Turning the Tables on Processed Food

    In 1980, very few kids in the U.S. had type 2 diabetes. Today 30 million children and adults — 9.3 percent of the U.S. population — have diabetes.

    Get the facts by watching Sweet Revenge: Turning the Tables on Processed Food on PBS Channel 2, presented by Baptist Health South Florida.  In the documentary,  Robert Lusting, M.D., addresses the health problems associated with the average American diet and how poor food choices affect children and adults in the U.S. and worldwide.

    The program, presented by Baptist Health, will air on WPBT- Channel 2:

  • Saturday, Dec. 20, 4-5 P.M.                      
  • Friday, Jan. 23, 10-11 P.M. 
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