Is Your Kid Addicted to Sugar? How to Fight Back

Kid Eating Sugar

Sugar is everywhere and in practically everything we consume. Eating too much sugar is a major contributor to childhood obesity and can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, and increases a person’s risk of a heart attack or stroke.

If you walk into a typical supermarket, you’ll be bombarded with sugary food on every aisle except the fresh produce section and (maybe) the water section. The Global Research Food Program at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill found that “60% of the foods and beverages purchased in American grocery stores contain added sugar.”

It’s no wonder then that so many children are addicted to sugar!

The American Heart Association says that the average American child between the ages of 2-19, consumes, “66 grams per day, equaling over 53 pounds of added sugar per year.”

The AHA advises that children between the ages of two and 18 should restrict their intake of added sugars to no more than six teaspoons (25 grams) per day, and should limit their consumption of sugary drinks to no more than eight ounces per week.

Kid Eating Sugar
Credit: Shutterstock

Kids who are addicted to sugar have to consume a lot of it every day and will get upset if they can’t have it. They are also more prone to having mood swings, irregular sleep, are very picky eaters, seem to always be hungry, and have trouble staying focused.

If you find that your child is addicted to sugar and has to have it all day every day, or you just noticed that they’re eating too much of it, here are some ways to fight back against sugar addiction or overconsumption.

1) Read Food Labels

You’ll be surprised just how much sugar is in common foods like cereal, yogurt, sports drinks, juice, pasta, sauces, salad dressing, and bread. Start reading the labels of packaged food in your kitchen and make a note of replacing high sugar foods with low-sugar or sugar-free alternatives.

2) Reduce Your Child’s Sugar Intake Gradually

If your child is used to consuming the equivalent of 17+ teaspoons of sugar a day, suddenly removing or drastically reducing their sugar intake will make it much harder for them to adjust to a low-sugar diet. Instead, gradually replace their favorite sugary snacks with low-sugar or sugar-free alternatives and start introducing healthier meals.

3) Replace Your Child’s Favorite Food with Low-Sugar or Sugar-free Alternatives

Your kid’s favorite sugary snack can easily be replaced it with a healthier alternative. There are so many sugar-free and low-sugar snack options available now.

Some sugar-free snacks might not be that healthy because they still have lots of processed ingredients, but you can start with those since your child needs to get used to consuming less sugar. Once their sugar intake is low enough, you can try introducing healthier snacks to replace the processed ones.

Many stores have healthy cereal options that are low in sugar which kids will still enjoy. You can try Puffin cereal or Cascadian Farm Organic cereal.

Instead of buying sugary juice and other drinks, try buying sparkling water, flavored water, coconut water, and unsweetened tea. Your kids can have a lot of fun making homemade, fruit-infused water using cucumbers, berries, or lemons.

If your child is addicted to eating candy, you can try giving them fresh fruit, dried fruit, frozen fruit, and dark chocolate. You can also make some naturally sweet treats like “nice cream” which uses frozen bananas or fruit popsicles with coconut water.

If your child is still not satisfied with those options, they can try low-sugar, natural candy like Unreal Candy.

When cooking, you can switch up some ingredients to make your food healthy and lower in sugar. Instead of white bread and refined pasta, opt for whole wheat. Replace sugary sauces with low-sugar alternatives or make sauces from scratch and use more herbs and spices to make your food flavorful.

3) Make Sure Your Child is Drinking Enough Water

Sugar cravings can be a reaction to dehydration, so make sure your child is drinking enough water throughout the day. You can buy them ice molds with fun shapes and add bits of fruit to make them more interested in water. Kids would also be more motivated to drink water if they had a few cool water bottles that they really like looking at.

4) Get Active

If your child is sitting around the house all day, they are more likely to snack more and crave sweets. If they’re exercising, playing sports, or having fun outside with you, they’ll be too distracted to think about sugar.

5) Increase Healthy Fats and Quality Protein

By adding healthy fats like seeds, nuts, avocados, olive oil, and olives to your child’s meals, they will feel more satisfied and full. This also goes for adding more quality proteins like legumes, tofu, tempeh, seitan, and quinoa.

6) Cut Your Sugar Intake Too

Your whole family would benefit from reducing their sugar intake, so make it a group effort. If your child sees the rest of their family cutting back on sugar, they will want to copy. You can even have a family competition to see who can eat the least amount of sugar in a week.

Quitting sugar can be really difficult if your child is addicted, but you will notice a big improvement in your child’s focus, mood, energy levels, and health when they cut out sugar from their lives.

Tracy Lowe

Tracy is a writer and filmmaker from Los Angeles, but Thailand has been her primary home for over a decade. She has more than 13 years of experience teaching young children and is a major proponent of the Reggio Emilia approach to learning.

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