Instead of giving children sugary drinks, What can we do ?

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Doctors have found that sugar-sweetened drinks are associated with cavities, excess weight gain, and poor diet. So, What can we do instead of giving children sugary drinks ?

Most children have a sweet tooth and are prone to asking for sugary beverages. However, guiding them towards more balanced options is important for their overall health.

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Should I limit the amount of sugar my children have?

Yes.  Canada’s Food Guide recommends limiting food and drinks that are high in sugar.  Children can enjoy sweetened foods and beverages in small amounts, however, it is important to offer a variety of healthy foods every day. 

Should I limit food and drinks with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)?

Yes. HFCS is an inexpensive sweetener similar to sugar.  Food manufacturers use it because it makes food sweet, but is less expensive.  In Canada, HFCS can be called “glucose-fructose” in the ingredient list. Food and drinks high in HFCS are high in calories and may provide few nutrients.  Some studies suggest that HFCS may lead to weight gain and other health concerns.  More research is needed to better understand the health effects of HFCS.

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What are some healthier foods and drinks I can give my children?

Use the chart below to help you offer lower sugar choices to your child. 

Instead ofOffer
Pop, fruit punch and sports drinksWater (try adding lemon, lime, orange, or cucumbers slices or fresh or frozen berries)
Sweetened milk and yogurt drinksWhite milk or unflavoured soy, rice or almond beveragesHomemade smoothies made with milk, yogurt and fruit Frog smoothie (spinach and fruit)
Sugary cereals and flavoured oatmealPlain cereals such as bran flakes, oat “o” cereal, shredded wheat and plain oatmealAdd sliced banana or berries for sweetness
Flavoured yogurt, pudding and ice creamPlain yogurt with whole or pureed fresh or frozen fruit for sweetnessHomemade pudding with less sugar added Layered yogurt pops
Cookies, packaged desserts, muffins and cereal barsHomemade baked goods made with less sugarTry pureed fruit like applesauce, prunes or 100% fruit juice as a sweetener instead of sugarBanana muffins two ways
Fruit gummies, chews or roll upsFruit with yogurt dipDried fruit like apple, mango or pineapple slices with no added sugarAlmond butter spiced apple
Canned fruit in syrupCanned fruit in juice or waterFresh or frozen fruit

If you offer your child juice, offer 100% juice and give small amounts:

  • 1-6 year olds:  no more than 125-175 mL (4-6 oz) juice per day
  • 7-11 year olds:  no more than 250-375 mL (8-12 oz) juice per day

How do I help my kids eat less sugary foods?

  • Children can enjoy sugary food and drinks in small amounts as a ‘treat’ once in a while.  Try these ideas to help your child eat less sugar:
  • Offer small portions of high sugar foods along with healthy foods.  For example, top a small scoop of ice cream with fruit or try chocolate pudding as a dip for bananas. 
  • Make fruit fun.  Try fruit kabobs or fruit faces.
  • Offer sparkling juice (a small amount of juice mixed with soda water) as an alternative to soft drinks or other sugary drinks.
  • Mix chocolate milk with white milk in equal amounts.
  • Make homemade baked goods and desserts made with less sugar. Keep some in the freezer so there is less chance of buying sweets from the store.
  • Avoid using candy or sweets as a reward for good behaviour.  

The bottom line

Healthy eating for children can include some sugar.  Small amounts of added sugar brings enjoyment to eating. Foods with naturally occurring sugars like fruit are nutritious and offer health benefits.  Offer meals and snacks that include healthy foods low in added sugars.  With a little creativity, there are many ways to help your child enjoy healthy eating with less sugar. 

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1 Comment
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