With Halloween firmly in the rearview mirror the remnants are still haunting our house. It was the girls 1st ever trick or treat this year and, suprise suprise there was not one trick in all of Clontarf, there were, however dozens of treats and that equated to supervalu sized shopping bags of sweets coming into the home x 2! Worse still was the girls firm belief that they somehow earned all of the Haribo and mini mars bars that they collected and therefore it was their decision on when and how many they ate. I had to put the bags so far out of reach that they would have needed mountaineering gear to recover them. But I was still justifiyably nervous that they might pull off a candy heist and therefore I began to throw out some of their stash bit by bit. I also ended up eating a chunk of it myself. So much so that I am now on a 30 day no sugar challenge, but more on that another time.
As the requests, demands and tantrums for treats increased I began to find myself using them as a bargaining chip. And I was bargaining far too much. In the end John and I decided enough was enough and we went full Amish! NO MORE TREATS, except at the weekend (and only after a clean dinner plate was presented). I fully expected a mini riot but it was surprisingly calm. I think that they got the message and knew there was no wriggle room.
So I decided to look into the amount of sugar that average kids in Ireland and the UK eat and my goodness it is simply shocking!!
Would you let your child eat 23 kilos of sugar? That's how much the average 4- to 8-year-old eats in a year. Thats 60 or so grams of added sugar a day! If 60 grams doesn't sound like a lot, its actually 15 teaspoons! And that doesn't include naturally occurring sugar in fruit, plain milk, or fruit juice isn't even counted in that amount.
Apparently children are biologically programmed to prefer a higher level of sweetness than adults. Something to do with energy needs… who knew children have more energy that their parents? Eh me, thats who. And that craving doesn't start to ease up even a little until the teenage years.
But eating too much added sugar is likely to trigger metabolic syndrome. What it this you ask… well its a group of risk factors that greatly increase a person's chance of having heart disease, diabetes, and strokes and kids ages 12 and up who consumed roughly 80 grams of added sugar a day are nine times more likely to have metabolic syndrome than those whose eat around 30 grams per day.
So how do we control our children's need for the sweet stuff? Well here are some ideas I found that have really made a difference and all came without the stand off and sugar withdrawal symptoms that I am currently experiencing myself. I could only imagine that if my girls had my cravings and irritability I would cave into them in a nano second!
Flavor yogurt yourself. Mix your child's current favorite with the same amount of plain yogurt, Then top with fruit.
You can’t beat eggs (well you can, but you get what I mean)! A protein-packed breakfast helps keep kids fuller than one heavy on sugary carbs. A quick scrambled or hard-boiled egg is easy (the Dietary Guidelines give the all clear even to the yolks), but you can up the fun factor. I do a great protein pancake that is simply porridge oats, ripe bananas, eggs and milk in a blender and my girls just LOVE them. (I’ll drop the recipe on here soon)
Save syrup, jam, or—sorry—chocolate spreads (we use LIDL’s protein chocolate spread which is just as tasty as Nutella) for special occasions. Instead, opt for peanut butter, which is great because it also provides protein, or just butter.
Cold cereals pack 9 grams of added sugar per serving on average—and ones marketed to families generally pack even more! So just keep the portion small—and establish a no-seconds rule for treats. The healthiest for sugar levels are cheerios, shredded wheat, cornflakes and Rice Krispies, but without adding sugar on top of course. So try adding blueberries, strawberries or banana as a substitute.
Try to make your own desserts and teach kids that fruit counts as dessert. If there is resistance at first, melt dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa (it has less than half the sugar of its milk chocolate) and let the kids dip. Or top fruit with homemade whipped cream (1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 tsp. powdered sugar, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract whipped until fluffy).
The main culprit here are sauces such as ketchup and the likes. You may have to opt for a product that contains a little more fat overall, but that's preferred over the sugar.
If you can't find a good lower-sugar version, go in a different direction. For instance, you could put a spice rub, in place of barbecue sauce, on chicken or make your own ketchup. Honestly its not hard and its far tastier. I’ll drop a recipe for that too but in the meantime just google one.
You want to get your child used to drinks that aren't sweetened. So what I did was to give the kids have a tiny glass of juice in the morning rather than some juice in their water all day long. Limit fizzy drinks to special occasions. Some have up to 25 grams of added sugar—that's 6 teaspoons—per cup!
Pre-made chocolate milk usually packs 10 to 13 grams of added sugar per cup. If your child won't drink plain milk, flavor it with a little chocolate syrup or a spoonful of Cadburys hot chocolate powder.
I make real fruit juice ice lollies and the kids haven't found me out yet! Just throw some kiwis, pineapple, apple, banana, pears anything really into a blender and pick up some ice lolly containers in Dealz or most supermarkets, put them into the freezer and presto, your kids are eating fruit and thanking you for it! My partner also make a delicious chocolate nut bar by mixing nuts, seeds and maple syrup together in a baking tray. He then puts that into the oven for about 20 mins until the nuts are golden, leaves it to cool and then smears melted dark chocolate all over it. Puts that into the freezer and then fights the kids off every time he takes it out for a sweet snack. It is truly more-ish!!