Last month, our guest blogger Melissa Halas-Liang, RD, founder of the wellness group SuperKids Nutrition, shared five ways to keep your child healthy for life! This month, she reveals the surprising place your kids are overdoing it when it comes to sugar and smart ways to get them to stop.
When you're not catching someone's hand in the proverbial cookie jar, rely on numbers. Numbers don't lie. And research shows that teens consumed on average 442 calories (boys) or 314 calories (girls) a day from added sugar alone. A majority of those calories (59%) come from food, but beverages aren't too far behind at 41%.
Now here's the real surprise. Guess what parents? Teens consumed most of that added sugar, not when out and about with friends, but while at home! That's right: reaching into your fridge, opening up your cabinet and pulling out your drawers at home.
We all rely upon a balanced, nutritious diet to remain in good health. However, teens must go above and beyond to obtain the nutrients their bodies require during this age of intensive growth and maturation. Sadly, the reality is that the food and snack choices teens are making fall short of the nutrients needed to build healthy, strong bodies. Support your kids and make the healthiest food choices the easiest choices.
Here are 8 easy ways for teens to cut down on the sweet stuff:
1. Choose cereals with less than 6 grams of sugar per serving. If your kids prefer the sweeter cereals with honey, no problem. Tell them to mix it with equal part of plain cereal.
2. Buy sugar-free crackers. Briefly explain how sugar makes starchy foods addictive, so you overeat them and then return to the store to buy more. But, fear not, because you can outsmart the marketers! Here’s a helpful guide to buying crackers.
3. Read the ingredient list. Find options for foods like pretzels, breads and chips without added sugar.
4. Cut back on the sugar-laden condiments. Serve low-sodium or homemade salsa or tomato sauce instead of ketchup.
5. Choose naturally lower-sugar yogurts. Some Greek yogurts offer less added sugar and pack in additional protein! Just be sure to choose true Greek yogurts—not those have added fillers. Also encourage them to sweeten yogurt with fresh fruits like baked apples or warmed frozen cherries or with dried fruit and nuts.
6. Keep fresh fruit out where your kids can see it. Teens will choose the easy option! If the fruit is washed, ready to eat, and within reach, they’ll grab it!
7. Buy 6-ounce juice glasses. They’re smaller and encourage ideal portion sizes. When drinking juice yourself, lead by example and dilute the juice with water.
8. Make it easy. Teens aren’t eating enough fruits. In fact, 28.5% of high school students ate fruit less than once per day and 33.2% ate vegetables less than once per day. So, choose fruits with minimal prep required washed and ready to eat in the fridge like grapes, Clementines or apples. Keep bananas out on the kitchen table. Decrease the barriers getting in the way between teens and their fruit!
One more thing: When you talk to your teen about cutting back on sugar, focus on healthy eating and physical activity, not on “dieting.” If you focus too much on weight loss, you increase the risk of developing a distorted body image or an eating disorder, particularly for teenage girls. In fact, roughly 70%-80% of teen girls perceive themselves to be too fat. You want to encourage your teen to eat right to prevent further weight gain and teach life long habits. But most importantly, you want your teen to feel his or her best inside and out. If you do think weight loss must be addressed, check out our tips here and be sure to seek your healthcare provider’s advice before you put your teen on a calorie-restricted meal plan.
How do you keep the amount of sugar your kids have to a minimum? Post a comment below and tell us!
Melissa Halas-Liang, a mom, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, is founder of SuperKidsNutrition.com, which provides nutrition and health content, curriculum and workshops to parents and educators nationwide. She is author of the Super Crew books Super Baby Abigail’s Lunch Time Adventure and Havoc at the Hillside Market.