More Australian kids than ever are obese or overweight, which is an indictment of parents, not the children… here are a few ways to lower your kids sugar intake and guide them towards healthier eating.
Here’s something you may not know. Kids love lollies. And ice cream. And cake, and fruit juice, and biscuits.
Yes, of course you knew that. And you know why, too.
It’s actually natural for children to crave sugar. It’s hardwired into our systems as a vestigial survival mechanism, and it’s more pronounced during childhood and adolescence.
The problem is that our modern society and its endless offerings of processed food in all sorts of varieties means there’s sugar in everything. You need to bring a magnifying glass to the supermarket to be able to read those tiny nutritional information squares they put on products – and understand them –in order to truly guard your child against all the ‘hidden’ sugar in processed food.
The result, as the stats show, is an obesity crisis. An estimated 28% – or more than one in four – of Australian children are now considered overweight or obese, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. That’s a seriously worrying stat.
It’s not just sugar, of course. Kids are less active than they once were, thanks Playstation, YouTube, et al. But reducing your kid’s sugar intake is a logical and not-as-difficult-as-you-might-think place to start in attacking the problem of childhood obesity. It’s also important because sugar is a habit – the more you have, the more you crave – and the habit can last into adulthood, which is why obese kids usually become obese adults.
Warning: everything suggested here does require you to become a ‘tough’ parent who doesn’t cave at the first whining for another biscuit…
Is it still a treat?
The problem with many sugary offerings for kids is that where once they were a ‘sometimes’ treat, many have now become a daily part of the diet. Biscuits, cakes, many fruit juices, etc, should be occasional, not daily. Also, when you’re out – when it’s easiest to choose the unhealthy option (bakery, fast food, etc) – plan ahead so you have a healthy option for them to eat instead.
Change your own habits
Like our use of tech or how we speak to other people, kids watch and absorb everything their parents do. So if your own sugar intake is on the high side, refine your own diet and model better eating behaviours (more fruit, more veg, less sweets) and it will more easily flow to the eating habits of your children.
Don’t lecture, don’t restrict
The worst thing to do is to constantly point out to your child that they’re overweight. Belittling or making an example of them is a sure path to them developing an eating disorder or some other unhealthy relationship with food later on in life. Banning high sugar foods and acting like a drill sergeant about food is also likely to fail. A better course is to divert – offer healthier alternatives in a gradual fashion until they don’t request or crave the sugar-heavy version anymore. Beware, this can take some time.
Make your own
You can make sugarless yet still tasty ice cream. You can squeeze fresh juice. You can make low fat, sugar-free muffins, cakes and biscuits. It’s on the internet thingy. Sure, it requires some extra time and effort but surely it’s worth it versus the proven dire consequences of long-term obesity on your child’s health?
What is sugar?
It’s time to educate yourself so you can educate your kids. Understanding what product labels mean in terms of sugar, fat and carbohydrate content is a start on the path to reducing your kids’s sugar intake. Encouraging them in subtle ways to understand the effect of too much sugar on their bodies – how it affects their mood, how it’s addictive, how it impacts their long-term health. Kids aren’t stupid and can make the right choices if you help enable them.
Head to health.nsw.gov.au to read more about Childhood Obesity