How To Win The Sugar War On Our Children

How to win the sugar war on our childrenIt seems like the war on our children just gets worse every day. You know the war–retailers wage a sugar war on our children in just about every possible way and our children are paying the price for it. Here are some hacks for battling the sugar war on our children, and how to teach them to advocate for themselves!

I will start with a full disclaimer: I have a horrid sweet tooth. Yes, it’s true. While I monitor every.single.thing that goes into my child’s body, I readily admit that I’ve been known to sneak into his stash of whatever holiday candy we have and dig in. (Points for it being organic, I hope?)

That said, I am also fully aware of what sugar can do to our bodies, and while I believe in moderation, when it comes to sugar, I tend to be much less tolerant of doses of sugar. Particularly in America, though it’s also a worldwide epidemic, children’s obesity rates are sky-high, and sugar can most definitely take a bow for that. Additionally, sugar certainly doesn’t help behavior, or body performance, and oh, let’s not forget that sugar is thought to feed cancer.

So I get frustrated when it seems that sugar and sugary products (even natural ones) are marketed to our children in just about everything they see and do. I’m betting you do as well, and would like some tips on battling the sugar war on our children. Here are some things our family does.

Related: Consuming Sugar and Sugar Substitutes in Pregnancy Affects a Child’s Brain

Read Labels

Yes, we read the labels. My son knows he can’t drink soda because (well, lots of reasons, actually) because of the crazy sugar-content, but that also means he doesn’t drink some of the more ‘natural’ drinks like Izze or SanPelligrino. Why? Because those drinks have nearly 30 grams of sugar content!

Do you know what 30 grams of sugar is equivalent to? It’s a little over SEVEN teaspoons of sugar! (Makes you feel good about how many you put in your coffee, huh?) In one drink.

Now, don’t get me wrong, when we grab a lunch at Whole Foods, as a special treat, he and I may share one. Even though they’re high in sugar, at least they are sugars from fruit and not added or high fructose. But, when I showed him how much 30 grams of sugar actually was (and then asked if he wanted to eat it at the risk of a belly ache?), he all of a sudden turned into a label investigator with me. Have your kids read the labels and show them how much they’re actually ingesting. They’re smarties, and even they will recognize the overload.

Be (Or Buy!) Creative

You know you dread them: every birthday or holiday class party where your child gets a bag full of trinkets and junk for their bodies. And, you feel like the bad guy (or maybe you’re like me, and you don’t–you feel like the super hero to save the day) for telling your child there is no way on the planet he’s touching that ring pop. But, that’s where creativity steps in. I have a box of ‘trade-thems’ filled with healthier alternatives and even non-food rewards. I don’t want him to eat Sour-Patch Kids, so I have an organic, dye-free version that at least allows him to choose better. That said, he goes for the non-food treats every time–stuff I can easily find at Target’s Dollar Spot or Hobby Lobby or just about any after-holiday sale to fill my box.

More, I try to practice what I preach. Several years ago when I was trying to be sure my little guy had ‘goodie’ bags that would make kids go gaga, my husband asked, “Why do you buy this junk if you don’t want him to have it?” I thought about that and decided then and there that I wouldn’t. Now, Valentine’s cards have pencils or stickers, holiday party items are either organic crafts/rings/toys and birthday party goodie bags include small, fun treats/tattoos/stickers that don’t tempt kids to put something in their bodies that I don’t even want my own child to consume. It sometimes takes some creativity, but there’s so much out there now for ideas, you can do it!

Related: You Can Find Sugar in Everything: 3 Ways My Family Kicked the Habit


Now, before you go ‘substituting’ sugar, be VERY careful. How many people do you know who justify drinking soda by saying, “At least I drink diet?” Friends, I’d rather have all 30 grams of that sugar than one nth of Aspartame or some other artificial sweeteners. They are NOT all created equally, so beware.

That said, there are some healthier options for sugar for sure, and more and more product makers recognize that parents don’t want to inundate their children with any more sugar than they have to.

Start simple: we switched my son’s daily vitamins from a popular, well-known brand that many natural mamas love because when I figured it out, it was as if I was giving him a teaspoon of sugar with each serving. A teaspoon! We now give Renzo’s–they’re melty tabs created by parents who knew they were giving loads of sugar with their gummy vitamins and wanted to change that. (Totally aside, I also love Renzo’s because they use folate and not folic acid, and since my little guy is MTHFR Hetero Compound, that’s so important, and I love that they know if you supplement Vitamin D3, you need to supplement K as well!)

And, if your little one feels left out of the ‘soda’ world, consider drinks like Spin Drift, which are bubbly and carbonated and flavored with fruit and have one (yes, one!) gram of sugar. Consider making your own ketchup with this delicious recipe from SugarFree Mom (If I can do it, you can do it!). Did you know that in addition to high-fructose corn syrup (unless organic) there’s still about a half-a-teaspoon of sugar in each serving of ketchup? Want to guess what a serving size is? One tablespoon.

Yes, that means that for each tablespoon of conventional ketchup your child is eating, they’re eating nearly half a teaspoon of sugar! Not sure about your child, but I know kids that believe ALL they need to eat is ketchup, so….

It’s little substitutions that can make big impacts in areas you didn’t even think were necessarily ‘full’ of sugar.

Talk To Your Kids

Most importantly? Talk to your children. Tell them why you want them to consume less sugar. Be honest about what sugar can do. My son has never eaten a thing from McDonald’s (he’s eight) because when he was two, I told him that McDonald’s would make his tummy hurt. Guess what? He took that to heart and now when his dad jokes about McDonald’s? My son tells him, “Daddy, I would prefer a healthier choice.” (Not judging you if McDonald’s is your jam; just suggesting you certainly read ingredients there!) 

Our kids listen, and they know we love them. When we involve them in the process of keeping themselves in shape and healthy, and when we substitute and offer them substitutions and alternatives they enjoy just as much, they’ll learn at a young age how to fight their own battles in the sugar war, and better yet, they’ll be equipped to win!

Photo: urbans/Shutterstock

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