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?

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    They are toddlers. Stop giving them sugar. You are the parent and make the decisions.
    – Kevin
    Feb 28, 2017 at 17:58
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    for toddlers this is easy, just don't have any sugar at home. and later, just educate them about how it sucks to have tooth decay, maybe with pictures from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tooth_decay Feb 28, 2017 at 18:22
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    -Sarcasm- Feed then sugar until they're sick. /sarcam Have you tried other sweet foods that don't have processed sugars? Fruits especially are a great source of non-processed sugar, and can help them to realize that there's other options for sweet foods. I'm personally particular to strawberries, but there's other fruits. What my mother did growing up was to try exotic fruits with me, and served as a fun bonding exercise with her.
    – Anoplexian
    Feb 28, 2017 at 19:04
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    @Anoplexian Processed sugars are bad primarily because they show up in things you wouldn’t expect to have them (read: things that aren’t particularly sweet), and show up in quantities larger than you might otherwise expect (read: more than you would usually find in nature). Gram for gram, there is little difference in the nutritional value of natural vs. processed sugars. As far as sugar is concerned, swapping processed sources for natural sources will only help if it causes you to consume less sugar. Which it may or may not. It also may or may not provide additional nutrients with the sugar
    – KRyan
    Feb 28, 2017 at 20:59
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    On which point, may I just offer a general warning that modern nutritional science is, unfortunately, a rather problematic field? Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of nutritional studies are funded by various food producers, with clear conflicts of interest, and a great deal of nutritional information is peddled without even potentially-conflicted studies being performed. Already I see answers that include information I believe to be without scientific basis. I suggest that the expertise of this site is in parenting, so focus on answers suggesting parenting techniques, not diets.
    – KRyan
    Feb 28, 2017 at 21:03

4 Answers 4


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.

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    Adding into this: If there are no candies and ice-cream at home, how can he eat them? Stop stocking sweet things, and add some some fruits to the fridge Feb 28, 2017 at 15:24
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    My mum eats mushrooms, but I don't recall her ever eating sweets. As a kid I ate sweets and not mushrooms (still true if I'm honest). So I'm not convinced leading by example will help much here (though of course being hypocritical won't work at all).
    – AndyT
    Feb 28, 2017 at 16:39

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!

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    "drinks" are the worst. "fruit" drinks pack almost half as a sugar, a small pack for one person has around 800 calories, the 1L ones 5000 Mar 1, 2017 at 6:37
  • To be fair to the reader who does look at the material before the edit, no amount of time would suffice to find sources to your scientific claims, because there is no supporting evidence for them in the medical literature. Mar 1, 2017 at 19:54
  • @anongoodnurse isn't the study mentioned here source enough? dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2039315/… The original seems to be ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4076145 Also see medicine.yale.edu/lab/lombroso/research/article.aspx?id=1078, it may not be exactly as AnoE described but it's close.
    – Jim W
    Mar 1, 2017 at 20:30
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    @JimW - The first does not support the OP's claims. It does discuss the difference between glucose and fructose in the effect on satiety hormones (emphasis mine). It is known that glucose levels has an effect on the hypothalamus. This is quite different from the OP's deductions. Hunger and satiety are complicated physiological mechanisms, still not fully understood (new hormones are discovered every few months, it seems), and far, far more complex than presented here previously. Mar 1, 2017 at 21:18
  • @RuiFRibeiro: Although I agree with your general statement, your calories are way off. A whole kg of pure sugar has 4000 kcal, 1L of Coca Cola has 380 kcal, 1L of (german) "fruit" drink has 420 kcal.
    – LAP
    Mar 2, 2017 at 9:43

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.

  • 17 grams of sugar and 170 calories from sugar are two totally different amounts.
    – Umberto P.
    Feb 28, 2017 at 21:29
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    "Follow with a set ritual like tooth brushing." This is the opposite of what dentists recommend. You need to leave time after eating sugary foods before brushing your teeth: "Eating and drinking foods containing sugar and acids naturally weakens the enamel on your teeth. Brushing straight afterwards can cause tiny particles of enamel to be brushed away. It is best not to brush your teeth until at least one hour after eating." source
    – Tony
    Feb 28, 2017 at 22:26
  • @Tony Thanks, I did not know that. I've done that all my life, on the advice of my dentist -- eons ago, though.
    – WRX
    Feb 28, 2017 at 22:33
  • @UmbertoP. I did not do the math, the AHA* did, I did wonder, but I don't have the math. *That's a c&p.
    – WRX
    Feb 28, 2017 at 23:14
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    There are 4 calories in a gram of sugar (AHA). Mar 1, 2017 at 2:48

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.

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