When the kids start acting wild at the end of the day, you’ll often hear someone say, “What did you feed them?” implying the child had a lot of sugar. It’s probably the truth. The average four to eight-year-old child eats approximately 50 pounds of sugar in just one year. Adults who love sweets aren’t much better. How do you help a kid or adult addicted to sugar?
It’s not easy, and there’s debate about using the term “addiction” when it comes to sugar consumption. However, we do know that people crave it, and too much isn’t healthy. Here, then, are five steps to help you stop your or your kid’s sugar habit in just one month.
Before you ask someone to switch up their diets, arm yourself with information on why. For starters:
- The USDA recommends a maximum of 10% of a person’s daily calories come from sugar, which puts it at 50 grams. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends less, a maximum of 5% of a person’s daily calories coming from sugar. The average intake of children ages four to eight sits at about 15%.
- There are four calories per gram of sugar, so a bowl of cereal containing 15 grams of sugar is giving your child 60 calories from the sugar alone. As you can imagine, this is the reason sugar is linked to childhood obesity.
- The American Dental Association reports the most chronic disease in children in the US is tooth decay. Cavity-causing acid is created when sugar mixes with the bacteria in a child’s mouth.
How to Help a Kid Addicted to Sugar — Start in the Kitchen
For the first week of your one-month plan, take a look at your typical meals. Search for sugar-free recipes (natural sugars are best) to replace favorite lunches or go-to snacks. When you follow a recipe that contains sugar, you can often cut 25% of the actual sugar and the food still turns out just fine. Try some of the following to get yourself started:
- New York Cheesecake using pure maple syrup as the sweetener
- Sugar-free sandwich spread using plain yogurt
- Whole wheat bread with herbs of your choice
Rethink the Most Important Meal of the Day
Many consider breakfast the most important meal of the day. For the second week in conquering a sugar habit, take sugary cold cereal, oatmeal topped with sugar and pastries off the menu. Replace them with:
- Egg on Toast – Eggs are packed with protein and other nutrients. Toast some bread, pan-fry an egg and slap them together for a sunny start to your day.
- Fruit on Oatmeal – Fruit contains natural sugars that will sweeten up oatmeal without all the negative effects. Some ideas include unsweetened applesauce, berries or banana slices.
- Fruit in Yogurt – Many yogurt brands will surprise you at the amount of added sugars they contain. Instead, get some plain, unsweetened yogurt and top it with your child’s favorite fruit.
Restock Your Pantry
In week three, be on the lookout for added sugars hanging around your pantry and refrigerator. Read food labels when you’re at the grocery store. You’ll often see a low-sodium chicken broth, but have you turned it around to see the amount of sugar it contains? What about crackers? Jelly? Granola bars?
You don’t have to completely eliminate these items from your diet. Some crackers don’t contain any sugar, and when topped with a slice of cheese they make a delightful treat. Just make sure to read the labels.
Switch Up Your Drinks
Juice and chocolate milk are often a go-to for young children, but they’re high in sugar content. In week four, it’s okay to have a small serving of juice once a day, but keep it at that. Kids used to sugary drinks might resist pure water at first, so try some of these tricks:
- Use a silly straw
- Give them a fun water bottle
- Add some fruit to the water
You Can Do This!
It may seem daunting at first, but there’s no better reason than your child’s health to help them kick their sugar addiction. It only takes one month and a little dedication and you’ll begin to see the positive results.