1. Week 1, 2 and 3: Replace a sugary food for a healthy one. Most people who struggle with sugar addiction typically have a vice. Last week, a pediatric dentist I spoke to said the number one dietary issue he found contributing to kids decaying teeth (along with poor hygiene) is an overabundance of processed breakfast pastries (such as pop tarts, donuts, etc.) and sugary drinks. Pick one of your kid’s vices and replace it with a healthy alternative. For example, if you are a breakfast pastry person, then make your own healthy granola bars. For soda, make our Fizzy Passion Punch. If your kids have more than one vice, then replace a new sugar habit for a healthy one every week for three weeks (or longer if your kids have more than 3).
2. Read labels on processed and packaged foods. You’d be amazed at how much sugar is in canned spaghetti sauces, ketchup, jelly, peanut butter, applesauce, soups and salad dressings! Most of the time, there are healthier versions with less or no sugar. To help when reading labels, look out for the names of sugar’s alias: brown sugar, sugar cane, corn syrup, dextrin, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup, galactose, glucose, honey, hydrogenated starch, invert sugar maltose, lactose, mannitol, maple syrup, molasses, polyols, raw sugar, sorghum, sucrose, sorbitol, turbinado sugar, and xylitol.
3. Use sugar-free for transitional foods, but not for long term. Sugar-free foods trick your body into thinking it’s eating sugar. Although most sugar-free substitutes don’t impact blood glucose like sugar, it tricks the brain into thinking the body has eaten it. If you’re trying to kick the sugar habit, then this is counterproductive. Instead, try using 100% fruit juice as a sweetener or natural, no-sugar added applesauce.
4. Remove the junk “snack food” from the house and replace it with healthy snacks. The only thing worse for a kid’s growing body than being hungry and not finding anything to eat, is being hungry and only finding only junk food. So, help your kids fuel their body with nutritious snacks. Some ideas are dehydrated fruit, apples and peanut butter, cheese and crackers, raisins, dried fruit (no sugar added), or fat-free popcorn.
5. Get good at drinking water. We all know that soda should be seriously reduced (if not eliminated completely) from kids’ diets, but that’s sometimes easier said than done. To help it get done easier, focus on increasing your child’s water intake. Eventually, they will desire soda less and water more. Some tips are to only pack water at lunch, add colorful fruit to your water glass at dinner (and serve in clear cups for the kids to see and enjoy), or have a one glass of water rule: whenever your kids want soda or juice, tell them that they must drink a full glass of water first. After that, then you’ll give them ½ cup of 100% fruit juice.
6. Establish a healthy breakfast routine. Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. But for families, it is often the busiest. So come up with some healthy breakfast ideas and have them ready. Some of our favorites are oatmeal (cooked using apple juice or milk instead of water), Ezekiel bagels, smoothies and fruit, English muffin and egg whites.
7. Change your definition of “deserts”. Make them healthier. In our society, desert is something that may never go away. Fighting that fact might leave you exhausted and defeated, so learn how to play the game in a healthier way. Deserts can be healthy and nutritious foods! Some healthy sugar-free deserts are fruits with sugar-free whipped cream, sugar-free jello with fruit or whipped cream, fruit or peanut butter smoothies, raisins and a teaspoon of frozen orange juice on plain yogurt.
8. Snack often. You’re body won’t crave sugar or junk food as much when it’s properly fed and nourished. Be sure to fill your little cook’s belly with a small nutritious snack every 3 hours to curb their sugar cravings.
9. Jump while counting, play tag, do pushups or something that requires energy. The more your little cook moves his or her body, the less they will want junk food. Studies show that exercise decreases cravings. That applies to your little one also!
10. Be dedicated for 3 weeks. Research keeps proving that the best way to break a habit is by committing to a new action for 21 consecutive days. Be ready for your new habit to be a difficult transition the first week, but if you can commit for 21 days, you’ll find that you’re little cooks taste buds will change for the better.