We all love a sweet treat from time to time, and children in particular are fiends for a sugar hit! Here at BeeZee Bodies, while we’re all for indulging in our favourite occasional treat, we know that eating TOO much sugar can be really bad for our health.
In the short term, eating lots of sugar can affect your skin (contributing to conditions like acne) and your energy levels (that ‘sugar crash’ you experience a few hours later), and weight gain. In the longer term, a high sugar diet can lead to obesity, tooth decay and serious health conditions such as diabetes. More and more children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes – a disease that, until around 2000, only affected adults. There’s even evidence that suggests sugar can fuel poor mental health – such as depression and anxiety.
But it’s unsurprising that we’re all eating too much sugar when you look at the hidden sugars in the most unsuspecting of foods (even a loaf of bread is laced with the white stuff!). Not to mention the alluring packaging, the marketing and in-store promos, the cultural behaviours of ‘rewarding’ children with sweets, and the peer pressure.
Opt for ‘no added’ varieties of family favourites/cupboard essentials; such as squash, tomato ketchup and baked beans. This is definitely a quick win when it comes to reducing sugar consumption in the house. Look out for the low-sugar labels on the packaging to help make these swaps when you are next doing the weekly food shop.
Alternatively to choosing ‘no added sugar’, you could also make your own store-cupboard essentials – check out our recipes for sugar free pasta sauce, baked beans and tomato ketchup here.
If treat foods are to be included in your food shop, pick items which are already divided out into treat sized portions – such as mini chocolate bars, bitesized versions and minis. This will help manage the sugar content consumed in treats.
It is really important to emphasise the positive health benefits of reducing sugar – why it is important for our bodies and health, using positive language to provide an understanding. Avoid using negative language, such as ‘fattening’ or ‘bad’, to describe less healthy sugary foods. It is important to remember that it is not the type of food which is bad; it is the quantity and frequency people consume them in. Rather than demonising these food items, refer to them as an ‘occasional treat’ which should only be consumed in small portion sizes.
Yoghurts can be a really useful convenient snack to pop in lunch boxes or to have after school as they provide a good source of protein, calcium and vitamin D; all of which are essential for maintaining healthy bones, teeth and muscles. However yoghurt cleverly marketed for children tends to be sugar laden – so watch out for this and read the labels! Or better yet – have fun making your own flavours by adding fresh/frozen fruits to plain natural or Greek yoghurt and whizzing it up in a blender.
Sweets and chocolate are often used in a family setting as a reward or bribe for good behaviour, however this can undermine the healthy habits you are trying to make, and can even begin to interfere with a child’s ability to regulate their own hunger by not listening to natural hunger cues. Instead, try exploring other types of non-food rewards to reinforce positive behaviour. Instead of a treat cupboard, why not create a lucky dip of inexpensive items like crayons, slime, bouncy balls, hair clips etc? And don’t forget that getting active can be a great way to explore alternate rewards and will get the family moving together – for example, weekend trips to the swimming pool.
Get the whole family involved with making healthier treats together. As well as it being a fun activity to do together, you are able to monitor the amount of sugar added to the recipe, try reducing sugar content by 25% or adding fruit to flavour and sweeten – this way you will be added some extra fibre and nutrients!
Avoid fizzy drinks and sugar laden squash by encouraging water consumption with funky water bottles/straws/infuser bottles which added fruit/mint to flavour.
Saying no to treats can be really challenging at times. To help avoid unwanted conflict set a limit on the number of “occasional” treats eaten each week together as a family, this way expectations around what snacks are available and the number allowed across the week can be managed. Make sure there are more nutritious snacks available to provide a wider array of options and to get the kids trying new flavours!