Sweet_tooth

Even prior to the pandemic, many of us were incorporating indulgent elements into our everyday meals. But while sweet treats may be delicious in the moment, they can have major health consequences for people of all ages. According to the CDC, 83% of kids between the ages of two and 17 visited the dentist in 2014. And if they’re consuming too much sugar, dental decay could be in their future, as well as obesity-related illnesses and a host of other health problems.

Your kids may be sweet — well, most of the time, anyway — but that doesn’t mean their diets should be full of sugar. If you’re looking for a way to curb your child’s sweet tooth for back-to-school season, you might want to consider the following tips.

Swap Out Juice For Water

Soft drink consumption has risen significantly over the years. Back in 1942, the average person consumed two servings of soft drinks per week. In 2000, the average person consumed two services per day. But although many families already limit soda consumption in an effort to keep their kids healthy, that doesn’t mean other “natural” beverages are a healthier choice.

Fruit juice may seem nutritious, but it’s actually loaded with sugar. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in addition to recommending screen time limitations of one hour per day for children over the age of two, reports that children who are less than a year old should have absolutely no juice at all. The maximum daily intake for 100% juice products should be anywhere from four to eight ounces, depending on the child’s age. While a small glass of OJ is okay every so often, juice isn’t something your child should be drinking with every meal. Lemonade, fruit punch, and sports drinks should also be limited. Make it a habit to drink water or milk instead and focus on incorporating whole fruit into meals.

Prepare Healthy Snacks Ahead of Time

Kids are more likely to indulge in less nutritious (and sugar-laden) snacks when they get too hungry and when they’re the easiest thing to quickly eat. That’s why it’s a good idea to prep some healthy snacks to keep on-hand at all times. Cut up some fresh fruit like apples, watermelon, pears, strawberries, mango, pineapple, or bananas in the morning for your child to bring to school or grab in the fridge. Cut-up veggies like carrot sticks, celery, and red peppers work well, too. Then, have some small, child-safe containers of dips like nut butter, guacamole, cottage cheese, salsa, hummus, or Greek yogurt to pair with the produce. Other easy and healthy snack ideas include cheese sticks, homemade trail mix, dried fruit, or “energy bites.” Make sure not to bring processed snacks into the house at all so everyone can focus on these healthy options.

Prioritize Home Cooking

No doubt, parents are juggling more responsibilities than ever — and that can make it hard to feel motivated to make a meal at home. But frozen dinners and take-out can contain a lot of hidden sugar (among other ingredients you might want to limit). Getting your kids involved in gardening can allow you to grow fresh food as a family and encourage your children to become more interested in nutrition. What you grow can serve as inspiration for home-cooked meals. Now that fall is here, put your crockpot to good use and make some healthy stews, soups, or roasts that your kids will be excited to try. Just keep in mind that some low-sugar recipes may make other substitutions that may not be as nutritious as you’d like; be sure to read the ingredients or the nutritional labels before adding them to your regular rotation.

It’s not realistic to think you can completely eliminate sugar from your child’s diet. But establishing healthier habits now can help you lay a solid nutritional foundation for them later on. If you take steps to reduce their sugar intake, you’ll prioritize their well-being — without making them sacrifice flavor or fun.