Children are consuming 16% of their calories in the form of sugars and other added sweeteners. That means that about 1 in every 6 bites of food that a child eats per day is essentially a spoonful of sugar. That level of sugar consumption is 2-3 times the recommended daily rate for adults. Children are consuming both sugary foods and drinks, with the bulk of the sugar coming from foods. This information comes from a report on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, reported in USA Today. The survey also reported that 63% of sugary calories were consumed at home. So, no blaming the public school system. What can parents do? Here is some advice for home that we use in our family.
Stock up on Fruit
The bulk of our sweets are fruits. Fruits are much better than sugary treats because the sugar doesn’t absorb as quickly and fruits are packed with nutrients. We eat both fresh and dried fruits. Dried fruits are great snacks because they are both portable and compact. My daughter loves banana chips and dried mango. For fresh fruits, buy organic if you can. They don’t look as good, but they are higher in nutrients.
Sweets are Treats
When I was growing up, we didn’t have cookies and other sugary treats around, except on holidays. Christmas and Halloween were the time for candies and chocolate. Now, the variety and availability of sweets are much higher. That doesn’t mean that they have to be in the home. Make sweets for special occasions and keep them out of the house at other times. Your kids will still be able to get them at school but they won’t be snacking on they all day.
Sugar is not a Snack
With so many sugary treats out there, it is tempting to grab something sugary for a snack. Snacks are important for children, because their level of activity requires them to eat more often. Sugary treats taste great, but the energy doesn’t last. Try packing protein and more complex carbohydrates into snacks. Small sandwiches, cheese and crackers, carrot sticks and a bowl of soup are all much better snacks than sugar.