Top 5 Ways to Reduce Sugar in Your Child's Diet

Top 5 Ways to Reduce Sugar in Your Child’s Diet -- by Lesley Herrmann, CNC of Awakened Taste

Processed sugars leave a sour taste in my mouth! Many studies have shown that childhood diabetes, obesity, and ADHD are directly related to the amount of sugar in the diet. Hyperactivity, behavioral issues, sleep disturbance, susceptibility to sickness, and difficulty focusing, although less mainstream but definitely more common, also have ties to sugar intake. Many issues can be resolve when we change the diet. By minimizing sugar, our kids can experience less sick days, fewer cavities, healthy body weight, focus in school, and a better night’s sleep. But sugar is not easy to avoid. It can be hidden in everything from yogurt to tomato sauce to bread to lunch meat… 

Take for example a typical cold lunch: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on wheat bread, a cup of apple sauce, and a juice box. Surprisingly, this “healthy” lunch adds up to roughly 75 grams of sugar (about 18 teaspoons)! That’s more than four Twinkies! (Read more at Parents Magazine.)

Here are five ways to reduce sugar in the diet and prevent its negative effects on the body:

1) Remember to balance: Balance every meal and snack by including clean protein, healthy fat, and colorful carbohydrates. By balancing our meals, we avoid sharp spikes in blood sugar, which eventually lead to energy crashes and cranky moods. The lunch example above can be balanced by replacing peanut butter and jelly with turkey and cheese, replacing the apple sauce with sliced apple for added vitamins and fiber, and throw in a few cashews to boost healthy fats and protein. 

2) Make it yourself: Not all sugar is created equally. White sugar is different than raw honey both in nutrients and in the effect on blood sugar levels. Refined white sugar is made from genetically modified sugar beets and can contain pesticide and herbicide residue.  In the manufacturing process, all other nutrients have are stripped away, leaving only sucrose (the simplest form of sugar) behind. Raw honey, molasses, grade B maple syrup, and dried fruit sweeten just as well and contain minerals and enzymes to that help the body process the sugar. These sweeteners also have less effect on blood sugar levels. Buy unsweetened yogurt and add your own vanilla and honey or maple syrup. Make your own cupcake frosting using honey, coconut oil, and creamy almond butter. Stir up homemade granola with dried fruit, maple syrup, and cinnamon. 

3) Avoid juices, sports drinks, and soda: Beverages have sweet tastes, but sour effects on the body! For example, 8 oz of Juicy-Juice raspberry apple juice contains almost 30 grams of sugar! Even though it’s 100% juice, the processing and pasteurization destroys most of the fruits’ healthy properties. You’re left with a beverage that has just as much sugar as soda! Sports drinks and other flavored juice drinks, like Capri Sun, have added refined sugar, food colorings, and other unnecessary flavorings.  If giving up juice is out of the question, try Honest Kids juice pouches, made from organic and non-GMO ingredients. They have 9 grams of sugar per 6.75 oz serving.  VitaCoco brand, a coconut water based juice, has a variety of tropical flavors. These products have quite a bit of sugar (15 grams per 8 oz serving) so add 1 part juice to 1 part San Pellegrino for a sparkling treat.  Another option is to make your own iced herbal tea. Sweeten with licorice root, stevia leaves, dates, maple syrup, or honey. See the recipe below for date ginger tea. 

4) Add sweetness by adding fresh fruit: Fresh fruit is a great way to satisfy the sweet tooth! Fruit contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that work together to deliver nutrients and stabilize blood sugar.  Fruit is a whole-food and 100% pure goodness.

5) Be a sugar detective: Become aware of what products contain added sugar and find alternatives that have less or no added sugar. Keep in mind, some foods have natural sugars, like the tomatoes in tomato sauce, so check the ingredient list for added sugar. Watch out for the following ingredients: sugar, maltose, dextrose, sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup. Look at portion size and the amount of sugar per serving. Remember if one slice of bread has 5 grams of sugar, you’re getting 10 grams in a whole sandwich, just from the bread alone (over 2 teaspoons).

If you’re looking for more ways to reduce sugar in the diet, join Healthy Meals for Families on the Go at the Family Room. This three-week workshop offers easy, delicious ways to create fun meals and snacks for the whole family! The next session runs Thursday evenings, July 7th - 21st. You’ll receive recipes, nutrition education, and an opportunity to get your questions answered. We’ll also do demonstrations each night so you can explore new flavors. Childcare is provided by the Family Room. You can also stay informed on other events, new recipes, and nutrition insight by subscribing to my monthly newsletter. 

Cheers to your health!


Date and Ginger Tea

50 oz water (purified recommended)

10-12 dates

4” piece of ginger, sliced

½ organic lemon, sliced

Add water, dates, and ginger to a large kettle and simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered. 

Remove from heat and allow tea to cool slightly. Transfer to a large jar and add lemon. Allow to cool completely and then chill in the refrigerator. 

Mix tea with carbonated San Pellegrino (2:1 ratio). Add a garnish of fresh mint leaves (optional). 

NOTE: Adjust ratios to your liking. You may enjoy more lemon, more ginger, or more sweetness. Play with the amount of ingredients until you find what you like best.