Getting the girls to cut down on sugar is a war I am fighting carefully. They are not likely to ever be as sugar free as I am and I would never make them completely sugar free unless they wanted to be….but this does not mean I can not try and reduce what they eat by cooking from scratch, limiting sweets and chocolate and making healthy swaps where ever I can, and so can you if you want me to help you try…
First comes weaning…
Babies have a preference for sweet tastes and have sensitive taste buds. Breast milk is sweet and so are some of the formulas especially the ready made kind. Have you ever tasted it? When they get to weaning at 6 months this is the only thing they have tasted. New flavours can be intense and not always welcome by their immature taste buds, but they can and will develop.
Next comes the terrible 2’s…
Hold on to your seats this is where it gets really fun. Children have an inbuilt survival instinct and search out energy giving foods. You should be making these wholesome and nutritious foods. Some children have very sensitive taste buds meaning that they may find some tastes unappealing. Other children have less sensitive taste buds and will likely take to new tastes very easily. This does not make them fussy eaters they just need to learn these new tastes and just because the first taste was unsuccessful does not mean it will be the next time or the time after that.
Now we get to where I am! Primary school…
Now in theory if you are at the first stage of this journey keep with it and do not give in to an easy life of bribes and arguments then this bit will be easy… oh how I wish I had. But alas I didn’t and therefore I am having to change habits we have all adopted till now.
Children go through a phase where foods they enjoyed previously become ones they turn their nose up to but don’t give up, put it aside for today, relax and keep trying. Taste buds die out as we grow and are replaced by new ones so tastes can change. As we get older we need stronger more intense flavours to stimulate them. Their other senses can influence the appeal they have to the food you give them such as smells, what it looks like, and the texture. This is usually where the stress starts for us parents. I have one very good eater and one ok… this is where we are at now anyway. Before she would not eat anything I was eating myself. It would always be pasta, chicken nuggets and chocolate spread on toast. She still asks for these things but I refuse to give in to it now. Instead I have adopted the next few things I will discuss…and they have worked!
Role modelling!! It is so so important, helps to influence them towards certain foods. If a parent is sat there with a look of dislike on their faces how likely do you think it is that they want to try what has been put in front of them. Cultural norms can influence their acceptance and preference to certain foods. I strongly believe eating together and demonstrating that food can be very enjoyable as well as teaching them good habits is crucial if you want your child to adopt a healthy relationship with food. I know there are many of you out there that prefer not to for what ever reason but it is something I feel very strongly about. There are days where it just doesn’t happen but 90% of the time I at least eat with the girls even if it means keeping hubby’s dinner warm in the oven.
Let them try some of your dinner. How many times have you made something for yourself and the kids want to eat it? Mine do it to me all the time. Let them! For many years I made different dinners to the girls but now we all have the same. Who wants to be making 2 dinners anyway! I always try to make something I know they will like as well as giving them something new. I’ve even started to introduce a bit of spice into their lives…this is taking some time to get used to.
Get them involved in the cooking and planning of meals. I get them to pick a meal each for the meal planner. I have noticed as the months have gone by we have less requests for chicken nuggets now and more requests for things like our homemade pizzas and jacket potatoes… They love the pizzas because they get to make their own how they like it and we use wholewheat tortilla wraps so we can make one each and have it just how we like it.
And lastly for now… At dinner time try putting the dinner into dishes in the middle of the table so that they feel in control of what they have but also encourage them to try something new. We usually do this for our #fakeaway nights.
Now the facts… The recommended allowance for “free sugars” in a childs diet is:
- No more than 5tsp (19g) 4-6yr olds
- 6tsp (24g) 7-10yr olds
- 7tsp (30g) 11yrs+
What are “free sugars”
Free sugars are any sugars added to food or drinks, including those found naturally in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices. They are sugars that have been removed from their original source and have no fibre. They are then added to foods as a sweetener or for preserving food giving them a longer shelf life.
Nutrition labels often tell you how much total sugar a food contains in the “total sugars” but they don’t tell you the amount of “free sugars” that has been added.
Understanding food labels…compare labels and choose foods that are lower in total sugar, and check the ingredients for sugars including those natural occurring sugars in honey, juice and other syrups.
- high sugar cereals for wholemeal toast, bagels, plain yogurt with fruit or porridge with berries. Mine eat bran flakes as a step down from coco pops and they do enjoy porridge and usually eggs at the weekend when we have more time.
- Swap cakes and biscuits for a plain scone (they actually contain very little sugar its what is added to them that you need to be careful of), nuts, bread sticks, fruit and vegetable sticks, cheese or humous
- Swap fizzy drinks for sparkling water with small amount of fruit juice or unsweetened squash, milk or a smoothie
- Make sweet treats with natural sugars but be sure to keep inside of the recommended daily amount.
For meal ideas visit Change4Life. There is so much information on here and they also have the apps you can get for your phone to make it easier to check for sugars whilst shopping. It usually identifies when it is naturally occurring sugars and when it is free sugars.
There is so much more I could include in this blog but I will leave it here for now.