Q: [School Ages] What are the best ways to limit sugar in my child’s diet?
A: You should not eat sugary foods. It’s that simple. Our bodies don’t need them, our teeth don’t want them, and our brains go haywire when we ingest them.
Still, we shovel in the sweet stuff. While the World Health Organization recommends a diet in which only 5 percent of calories come from sugar, Americans gets an average of 13 percent of our calories from glucose, fructose, honey and corn syrup.
Processed sugar is found in nearly three-quarters of packaged foods sold in this country. And, as we know too well, many of those packages sport cute little cartoon characters on them. Kids are targeted; and once they get a taste, they’re hooked for life. Childhood obesity rates have hovered at 17 percent for the last decade, putting a generation at a greater risk of heart disease, cancer and other ailments than any generation that came before.
So what can we do to get kids off the syrupy sauce? Again, it’s simple: Don’t introduce sugar in the first place.
When babies start using sippy cups, excited parents want to fill that cup with all kinds of exciting flavors: Apple juice! Grape juice! OJ! What will baby love? Water. Baby would love water. And, really, water is all baby needs. Juice is just sugar, and babies don’t need it. (Yes, diluting it is better, but it is still too much too soon.)
Babies also don’t need ice cream, cupcakes or cotton candy, no matter how cute the Instagram pictures would be. Instead of starting with sweet flavors, baby’s first foods should consist of vegetables. The greener the better. By getting babies used to broccoli, you cultivate the sense in them that food should taste healthy. This is a lifelong gift that will serve them well into adulthood.
Once they get a taste for veggies, introduce sugar in the form of cut up pieces of fruit.
They might stamp their feet a bit now, but I’m confident they’ll eventually toast our efforts to keep sugar at bay – by raising high a refreshing glass of water.
Leila Yasrebi, M.D., FAAP, is a pediatrician with Hoag Medical Group. Dr. Yasrebi’s patient care philosophy is to provide the highest quality of care to her patients and make sure they have the education, resources and information needed to live healthy and happy lives.