It’s the time of year when celebrations, parties and food abound. How can you take kids along with you, but ensure they don’t stuff their face with too much sugar when there’s a spread of it?
Mandy Sacher is a paediatric nutritionist and founder of Wholesome Child. She shares her great ideas for balancing out the sugar overload.
1. Give them a nutritious meal before going out
“One of the things we can do is fill up our children - make sure they've eaten a good quality, healthy meal before they go to a celebration,” Mandy says.
This way, they’re not physically hungry when they turn up and see a table full of sweets sitting there.
Hydration is also important, as often thirst mimics hunger. So make sure they’ve had plenty of water before you head out.
2. Discuss ‘sometimes foods’
From the age of two, when you feel it’s appropriate to give your child small amounts of sugar, you can start to reason with them about ‘sometimes foods’.
“We do not want to villainise sugar and make it this 'evil', because it is not,” Mandy encourages. “There are times when it is appropriate to celebrate and have sweet food, but we need to reassure our children we don't have too much now, because there is going to be another time.”
Listen to Mandy on Kinderling Conversation:
There are occasions where you can start to negotiate with your child, too. Suggest they start with two sweet things, and they’ll try to bargain you up, and eventually you’ll find a compromise. And while Mandy recognises they may not stick to that, “what you're doing is creating an awareness,” she says. “We're not always going to be there with our children. They really do have to learn to self-regulate.”
Encourage your child’s mind-body connection, and educate them from a young age to listen to their body. Once they make the connection between the foods that make them feel good and the foods that don’t, you’ve laid the foundation for them to modify their own behaviours, which will help them make healthier choices.
3. Homemade snacks still aren’t ideal
While you’d think that taking some homemade snacks along for your kid will help, you might find they eat that, as well as everything else too!
Mandy says she’s tried this first-hand with her kids, bringing along healthy black bean brownies or some quinoa crackles, and then her kids just end up eating the birthday cake anyway. Sound familiar?
4. Put your foot down afterwards
Afterwards, your kid might come home irritable or grumpy and they may be wanting more sugar. "That is when you have to put your foot down and say 'no more'," Mandy says.
Give them a healthy meal to finish the day. This gives you another opportunity to emphasise that ‘sometimes foods’ are exactly that – not for all day, every day.
5. Encourage other families to have healthy options
Realistically, we can’t expect a child not to indulge when there are sweet treats on offer. As party hosts, Mandy believes we should consciously provide healthy choices for everyone.
“As a community, I think us parents need to band together and make sure that when we do have our parties, there are healthy treats on offer so that parents can guide their children to something a little bit healthier,” Mandy says.
Try to put out a healthy plate for every sweet treat you put out there. It could be a simple homemade sausage roll or mini pizza, a vegetable platter or even sushi rolls. Substantial foods like this will help balance out those sugar levels (for both kids and grownups!).
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