10 tips to decrease added sugar

Wednesday night I went to an open house put on by our school district’s nutrition services department. Next week I’ll have a full report, but today I wanted to share one of the tip-sheets they were handing out. The information was originally provided by the USDA, and I’ve paraphrased a little. My own comments are in italics. 

  • Serve small portions: use smaller bowls and plates. Have kids share a candy bar or split a large cupcake.
  • Sip smarter: soda and other sweet drinks contain a lot of sugar and are high in calories. Offer water, 100% juice, or fat-free milk.

Yes, this is fat-free chocolate milk–a give-away from the open house. I didn’t know there was fat-free chocolate milk. Awesome!

  • Use the check-out lane that does not display candy: most grocery stores have a candy-free check-out to help moms out. Again, I did not know this, but you can be sure I will investigate the next time I’m at the store. I usually just laugh and roll my eyes when my kids ask for candy. 
  • Choose not to offer sweets as rewards: by offering food as a reward for good behavior, children learn to think that some foods are better than others. Reward your kids with non-food items, like stickers. This is really tough to do, I know. Every time we get a “special treat” because of good behavior I cringe a little bit. It feels like a bad message to send, and I struggle with it as much as the next parent. However, I also like the idea that special foods are for special times, rather than every day consumption, i.e. birthday cake, ice cream on a hot day, or frozen yogurt after a good haircut (don’t ask!). 
  • Make fruit the everyday dessert: serve baked apples, pears, or enjoy a fruit salad. If you know me, you know my motto is “fruit is not dessert!” I hate any kind of baked fruit, fruit pies or otherwise fruit-centered desserts. I’d rather eat no dessert than apple pie. I know I am weird, for this and so many other reasons, so I think this is a great idea if you can get your kids to go for it. 
  • Make food fun: sugary foods that are marketed to kids are advertised as “fun foods.” Make nutritious foods fun by preparing them with your child and being creative. Arrange a smiley face with sliced bananas and raisins. Cut fruit into fun and easy shapes with cookie cutters.

Let your child be Crazy Raspberry Finger Man!

  • Encourage kids to invent new snacks: make your own snack mixes from dry whole-grain cereal, dried fruit, and unsalted nuts or seeds. We eat tons of “mix” at our house. Usually it’s cashews, almonds and craisins, though sometimes I add Cheerios, other dried fruit or a few mini-chocolate chips. 
  • Play detective in the cereal aisle: this didn’t print on the hand-out so I’m making up my own thing. We all know kid’s cereals have tons of added sugar, but so do “healthy” cereals marketed towards adults. I love my Fooducate app for grading different options. Bad grade, no buy. 
  • Make treats “treats,” not everyday foods: Limit sweet treats to special occasions.
  • If kids don’t eat their meal, they don’t need sweet “extras”: candy and cookies should not replace foods that are not eaten at meal time. This can be an issue with Graham, who definitely has a sweet tooth (hhmmm, wonder who he gets that from? CoughMEcough). We just say, “if you’re not hungry enough to eat your dinner, you’re not hungry enough for dessert.” It doesn’t make us very popular, but whatever. 

Hope you enjoy the weekend. I’m not sure I can convince my husband, but I’m pushing to check out some large snow sculptures. Yeah, just ask me where the fun is, cause I’m the Fun Master!

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