Guest Post by Cindy Silver, Registered Dietitian
Do your kids love sugary foods and snacks? Do they go nuts for drinks that pack in the sugar? Do they expect a sweet cookie, cupcake or ice cream for dessert day-after-day? Sugar isn’t what kids’ bodies need nor is it great for your dental bill.
As a registered dietitian, I help caring parents steer their kids and themselves toward healthier choices of foods and beverages. This includes a focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lower fat dairy foods and lean proteins. It also includes keeping a careful watch on how much sugar kids eat.
I recommend that every parent become a ‘Sugar Buster’ as well as a positive role model for limiting the sugar in food, snack and beverage choices that your kids want. If the entire family pulls together, sweets can take on a whole new excitement and a nutrient-rich twist!
To get you started, here are some kid-friendly favorites that can be made lower in sugar or can be substituted with another fun food that kids will love.
- Toaster Pastries. For something different, toast a graham cracker, let it cool slightly and then spread it with sunflower butter and a light drizzle of honey. Or, try the same with almond butter if your kids aren’t allergic.
- Sweet Breakfast Cereal. The most nutrient-rich topper for plain, unsugared cereal is fruit like berries, peaches, diced apples or dried raisins. Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice also add that sweet flavor kids adore in the morning, but without all the extra sugar and calories.
- Nut Butter Sandwich. The classic PB and J sandwich can become something healthier. Instead of sugary jelly or jam, unsweetened applesauce works well. Or grate naturally sweet carrots and mix them into the nut butter and then fill the inside with sliced, chopped apples. If your kids are allergic to peanut butter, no worries. Try soy nut butter or sunflower butter.
- Cookies. In place of a cookie, I’ve had great luck with a whole wheat cracker topped with a slice of cheese and half a strawberry or grape. Or, mix together light or fat free cream cheese with thawed frozen strawberries or raspberries as another yummy cracker spread. For fun, let the kids sprinkle a little powdered sugar (‘snow’) on top.
- Popsicles. The healthiest popsicle I know is a ripe banana that you peel, cut in half, wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper, then throw in the freezer for 6 hours or longer. A close second is a homemade smoothie of frozen/thawed mango chunks, orange juice and plain yogurt poured into reusable popsicle molds. Or, substitute any frozen/thawed fruit that your kids like.