If you’re a parent, you now have another reason to say “no” to sugars for your children. According to recent dietary guidelines by the United States Agriculture Department and the Department of Health and Human Services, children under two-years-old should not have any added sugars included in their diets. These science-based guidelines are a part of a larger summary of general health suggestions updated every five years for Americans to promote healthy lifestyles.
No sugar? Yeah, right.
It’s easier than you think! Keep in mind that these guidelines are only recommendations to eliminate added sugars, which is different from naturally sweet foods such as strawberries, tomatoes, carrots, and melon. Even the “all-natural” or “organic” baby food brands that you may think are better for your children may contain some sort of added sugar. According to the Mayo Clinic, a good rule of thumb when looking at the nutrition label is to avoid words like fructose, sucrose, syrup, malt, molasses, honey, or fruit juice concentrate.
Here are some alternatives to foods with added sugar:
• Offering water or plain milk instead of sugary drinks.
• Offering your child soft fruits such
as bananas, ripe peaches and drained canned fruit (packaged in water or 100% juice, not syrup), rather than sugary juices.
•Forget the fruit snacks and offer freeze-dried fruit with no added ingredients.
• Ice cream? No, thank you. Offer a plain, whole-milk yogurt parfait with fruit.
• Cinnamon Toast Crunch? Forget about sugary cereals! Offer plain toasted oats, instead.
• Cookies are tough for kids to refuse, but a whole-wheat mini bagel with cream cheese (for toddlers) is a good alternative.
So what should you do about those fussy eaters?
If you start are concerned about your child’s diet, be sure to bring this up with your family pediatrician who can help troubleshoot and ensure your child is getting all the necessary nutrients to grow and develop.
“Don’t create a punishment when they don’t want to eat, and try to encourage meals at the table,” says Brooke Treloar, MD, ProMedica Physicians Toledo Pediatrics. Dr. Treloar has been practicing pediatrics for over ten years and says that, as a parent, you should continue to put things on your children’s plates for them to try and then try to lead by example. “You should show your child what healthy eating is at the dinner table, and the whole family has to do it,” she adds.
At younger ages, children’s taste buds aren’t fully developed, so experimenting with different foods is best to do at a younger age.
What do these added sugars do to younger kids?
“When children consume foods that have poor nutritional value, it can easily lead to weight problems as they grow older” says Dr. Treloar. “Obesity can then lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or even fatty liver disease,” she adds, stressing that starting at an early age to avoid extra sugars in diets can lead to healthier kids as they grow older, and ultimately, a healthier adulthood.
“There is a central role in health that is critical for us to think about our nutrition and how it affects our lives, not just five years from now, but in our day-to-day lives,” she adds.
But what about birthdays?
We get it— birthday cakes are a part of everybody’s birthday celebration. If you commit to the no-added-sugar guidelines, this can be a little difficult to navigate, not only for your children, but for everyone else at the birthday party. If you are unable to find any local bakeries that offer a desirable sugar-free option, don’t despair; simple alternatives are just a Google search away, like these:
Sugar-Free Vanilla Birthday Cake that requires just under two hours to complete. This recipe calls for ingredients such as erythritol (sugar substitute), almond milk and apple cider vinegar. Find it at Sugarfreesprinkles.com.
Sugar-Free Chocolate Birthday Cake that takes less than one hour to complete and calls for Splenda in place of actual sugar and unsweetened cocoa powder. Find it at thebestcakerecipes.com.
How can I learn more about these guidelines?
If you would like to learn more about the current recommendations, visit dietaryguidelines.gov. The 164-page document is also summarized in these 10 most important highlights.