Even though Caleb is only 2 years old, I already feel like I’m in a constant battle to keep his sugar intake in check. It seems that every day at daycare brings some sort of sugar-fest: Doughnuts with Dad, birthday cake, crafts with marshmallows, Popsicle Friday–the list goes on. I’ll refrain from launching into an all-out anti-sugar tirade, but I think we can all agree that too much sugar is not conducive to optimal health for anyone. Cookies and candies have become expected parts of any given Tuesday rather than occasional treats.
Considering that I don’t really have any interest in going on an anti-sugar crusade at school (yet), I try to balance things out by making the foods I offer at home as wholesome and low in added sugar as possible. Here are a few tricks that have made a difference in our household:
Unsweetened ketchup. Like a lot of toddlers, Caleb can be convinced to eat most foods with a little ketchup. At first glance, regular ketchup seems harmless enough; it contains about 4 grams of sugar per tablespoon. But, when he started insisting on multiple servings at lunch and dinner…I started re-considering the ketchup tactic. Then one day I spotted Westbrae’s unsweetened ketchup at Whole Foods. I bought a bottle and served it to Caleb. Lo and behold, he doesn’t even notice the difference (although admittedly, both Seth and I can definitely tell it’s not Heinz!). In the future, I might try making my own low-sugar ketchup, but for now, this product works well for us.
Sturs. If I had to guess, I would say that juice is one of the top contributors of sugar to young children’s diets–it’s so easy for a kid to down a few glasses of apple juice in a day and get 60+ grams of sugar. Most of the time, Caleb is content with water or milk, but occasionally, he requests what he calls “spicy”–also known as liquid water enhancer. A lot of brands (e.g., Mio) can have some intense additives, including caffeine, so be sure to read labels if you try this trick. We get a 5-pack of Sturs in our Amazon subscription box, and all three of us use it on occasion. If you’re not cool with giving stevia to your kids, you could also just try adding a few tablespoons of 100% juice to a cup of water.
Mix + match cereal. I actually used this tip well before I became a mom; I mentioned it on the old Broccoli Hut site many moons ago. Finding low-sugar cereals that kids will actually eat can be rough–when was the last time you saw a kid happily tuck into a bowl of All-Bran? As a compromise, I’ll often mix together one low-sugar cereal with one higher-sugar cereal, such as regular and sweetened Cheerios, or plain shredded wheat and Cinnamon Harvest Kashi. Caleb doesn’t seem to mind, particularly when the cereal is topped with milk (which adds its own sweetness).
Veggie smoothies. Thank God for smoothies, amirite? Seriously, Caleb will eat pretty much anything in smoothie form, so I exploit that fact to the greatest extent possible. I’ll begin with some fruit (usually frozen berries), then layer in some spinach and pumpkin puree, pour in some milk, and top off with his nut butter of choice (because we obviously have at least five different kinds at all times, ha!). Fruit is great and obviously full of nutrition, but replacing some of that volume with low-sugar vegetables cuts the sugar down by quite a bit.
Fruit-topped waffles. I get a lot of grief for this from certain family members, but I typically don’t serve waffles and pancakes with maple syrup. Instead, I’ll heat up some frozen fruit (another thing I always have on hand, evidently), and I’ll pour the warm fruit with its juices on top of the waffles or pancakes. Caleb also likes plain Greek yogurt and peanut butter as toppings. I myself prefer warm coconut butter.
So those are just a few of my attempts to keep things low-sugar around here. Caleb gets plenty of opportunities for treats outside our home, so I don’t think I’m being too much of a sugar Grinch…right?
What tips do you have to moderate sugar intake?