My toddlers like to have ice-cream, candy, sweet, and high sugar cookies. I just worried it could lead to sugar addiction. What are persuasive techniques to reduce sugar intake?
There is an old Indian story:
A lady and her son went to a monk asking about her son's sugar problem.
The monk said, "Come back here in 10 days."
After 10 days she went back to the monk with her son.
Now the monk says to her son, "Kid, do not eat sugar. It is not good for your health."
Surprised, the mother asked, "Why did you not say it before?"
The monk replied, "10 days ago, I was eating a lot of sugar."
First you must change you eating habits and soon you will find he will start copying you.
If you eat fruits and enjoy them, your son will believe they are delicious. Moreover, your son can learn that there are lot of delicious things that are actually healthy for your toddler.
Edit: scientific content deleted as I am not able to find, in reasonable time, the exact references needed to support it.
It will, in all likelihood, be unrealistic to really keep your toddlers away from sweets completely. That said:
- Eat less sweets yourself. You do not need to make a science of this, and you certainly do not need to count anything. You know if it tastes sweet. It is certainly possible to live completely normal without ever having any predominantly sweet taste in your mouth.
- Do not have cookies, sweets, ice cream etc. in the house. No joke - don't underestimate how easy it is to say "There are no more cookies" instead of saying "No, you already had 3 cookies, you can't have any more". If they throw a tantrum, you can tell them "ok, fetch yourself some from the kitchen" and wait until they themselves see that there are none. If you want to eat something sweet, buy it, eat it, and be done with it.
- Remove habitual eating. Avoid making it a habit to always pick up an ice cream when going to the kindergarten. Avoid always buying a little sweety at the store. Avoid always buying a chocolate bar after going swimming. And so on.
- Never give any food as reward or compensation.
- Check your favourite drinks. They usually have around 10g of sugar per 100ml and can increase to much more for certain beverages. That's 100g per liter. Do an experiment: weigh off 100g of sugar and put it into a 1L bottle. Afterwards, never buy those again, ever.
- Return to 3 larger (or 5 smaller or whatever fits in your schedule) fixed meals per day. Avoid having food with you when going out for short periods (to the playground etc.), so they get used to short periods with no food at all. If you want to have some "emergency" food with you (in case you miss a train or something), pick non-sweet ones: carrots, not-too-sweet fruits, sausages, cheese... . Obviously, if you spend a day in the woods, then you need to take food; make it primarily non-sweet.
Best of luck!
Try starting with smaller dishes, smaller portions, less often. Precede it with a physical activity like a walk or swim. Follow with a set ritual like tooth brushing an hour after sugary meals. (thanks Tony for that info!). Rishi is also correct. It starts with your example. There are plenty of things (like alcohol or driving) that children are not allowed to do in spite of what their parent's can do, but good eating habits and exercise are best learned young. Teach moderation. Holidays and birthdays/parties are a fine time to go a little over the top.
Fruits are also filled with sugar. I would follow the guidelines of no more than 17 grams/170 calories per day. LINK The quote below is within the side articles but I could not directly link to it.
According to the American Heart Association, toddlers should consume only 17 g of sugar per day. If a toddler consumes between 1,200 and 1,400 calories, this means that between 7 and 8 percent of her total calories should be from sugar. This equals out to about 170 calories from sugar per day.Jun 17, 2015 ON EDIT Theses numbers are incorrect. I have done further research and it looks like now the AHA recommends no more that 100 calories from sugar for ages 2-6.**
I do warn that if you are very rigid about anything, children will often rebel later. I have vegan friends who were very rigid and to their shock and dismay, both their kids eat meat away from home.
We all have "sugar addiction" ... craving something sweet is a pretty natural thing. The problem starts when too much refined sugar causes insulin/glucose peaks, and eventually child onset diabetes in young kids.
Sugar is a hell of a drug and weaning kids off sweets is pretty difficult at first, as they will be cranky and beg and act up to get sweets as a reward for good behavior. Never give them sweets for good behavior.
I find that well portioned freeze-dried fruits/berries are a really good way to to control sugar cravings and replace cookies, ice cream and other high-glucose snacks. Especially dried cranberries with (no sugar added) are pretty good, as well as dried pineapple, peaches, bananas.
Basically, find foods that are low on the glycemic index and avoid those artificial "fruit juices" targeted to kids that are mostly colored-sugar-water.