Childhood obesity is a global problem, with the World Health Organisation estimating that the number of overweight children under the age of five to be over 42 million.
And it’s getting worse.
With poor diet and a lack of exercise thought to be the leading causes of childhood obesity, parents are fighting a constant battle against advertising campaigns, super market sales tactics and conflicting health advice to keep their kids healthy.
Convincing your toddler, child or teenager to cut down on candy and other sweet treats can be tough, especially if they have a sweet tooth. But with a bit of clever thinking and advance planning, it is possible cut sugar from your children’s diet without them even knowing it.
Sssshhh… We won’t tell if you don’t.
1. Clean out your cupboards
Are your cupboards full of sugary snacks? It’s time to ditch them! It’s unreasonable to expect children to choose a healthy option when they know their favourite candy is just a few feet away. We eat with our eyes, so try leaving out healthy options instead; keep apples, pears and berries in a fruit bowl on the table, or fill a small bowl with nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
2. Swap simple sugars for healthier alternatives
One of the questions I’m asked most is: “If I can’t use sugar in my cooking and baking, what’s the alternative?” I certainly don’t advise on using artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, but there are some healthier, natural alternatives. I recommend that people use Xylitol, which is now available in most supermarkets. It comes from the birch tree, and is actually good for your teeth, because it stops harmful bacteria which cause tooth decay from adhering. It also has the same consistency as sugar, so can be swapped like for like, but I still recommend reducing the amount you use in recipes.
3. Switch to wholegrain bread and avoid ‘white’ carbs
Potatoes and white carbohydrates behave in the much same way as sugar in our bodies, causing rapid spikes in our blood sugar. Wholegrain breads on the other hand, contain higher levels of minerals, vitamins and fibre making them much better for you. Instead of white potatoes, try to use more sweet potatoes and squashes in your cooking.
4. Use naturally sweet alternatives to sugar
Refined sugar is quite simply, bad news for our children. It has no nutritional value and when consumed in high quantities can lead to all sorts of health problems. Try using honey or little soaked and puréed dried fruit to sweeten dishes or if you prefer sweeteners with a more ‘sugar’ like consistency, try Sukrin or Xylitol. Remember though – sweeteners still stimulate a sweet tooth and cravings for sugary foods. Cut down the amount you use gradually so that your family’s tastes change. It’s true, the more sweet things you have, the more you crave them!
5. Add more protein and fibre to your baking
Increasing the amount of protein and fibre that your kids eat with sweeter foods, can help to prevent a high and sudden release of blood sugar and the following ‘sugar crash’ which can leave them craving more sweet treats. Try adding ground almonds or seeds to your baking, serving a small handful of nuts with their favourite fruit or only allowing them to have a few sweets or small chunk of chocolate after a healthy meal. Remember, balanced blood sugar may also lead to more balanced behaviour!
6. Create desserts that are nutrient dense, not just empty calories
Everything you give your children to eat should add goodness, rather than take away; and that includes sweet treats! Make sure that home-made desserts provide more than just empty calories. For example, add some blackstrap molasses, chopped nuts, oats and cinnamon to an apple crumble instead of sugar. Or whip up some protein rich ice cream – it’s just frozen fruit blended with some plain natural yoghurt. Or every kids favourite – frozen bananas blended with peanut butter, cocoa powder and coconut cream. Yum!
The 30 Day Sugar Detox Online Programme
If you’re looking for a really family friendly to cut sugar and processed meals from your diet and learn more about cooking whole food, why not join our Nutritional Therapists 30 day Sugar Detox online programme? It packs months of nutritional coaching into seven easy-to-follow modules and can help you make 2017 a year of healthy happy family eating!
The 30 Day Sugar Detox ecourse includes videos, meal planners, shopping lists, recipes, top tips and a free copy of my popular ebook: Junk Food to Super Food. You’ll also get exclusive access to a Secret 30 Day Sugar Detox Facebook Group, where Catherine will be online every week to answer any questions and help keep you on track.