kids

'I've been trying to get my 3 kids to eat less sugary stuff. Here's what has worked.'

Noshu
Thanks to our brand partner, Noshu

It’s 'the rustle' that usually alerts me that a pantry raid is afoot.

The sound of packets being rummaged through, snacks being sought, and yes, sugar being consumed.

As a mother of three kids who I am fairly sure have the same number of stomachs as your common dairy cow (four, if you’re curious), the struggle is real when it comes to feeding them, especially in the snack stakes. 

Like most kids, they’re partial to the, ahem, occasional sugary treat. Occasional meaning any occasion they want, if they had the choice.

Like most parents, I try and keep an eye on how much of the sweet stuff they actually shove into their mouths and endeavour, on most days at least, for a balanced-ish approach.  

Here are a few things I’ve learnt which have actually helped, and been doable, sustainable and not caused me to have a complete breakdown in the pantry due to their completely unrealistic nature:

1. Encourage balance, not perfection.

I (and they) are not perfect. Some days, I am the President of Smug Town, population: me, with their meticulously curated lunchboxes and nutritionally dense snacks. Other days, not so much. 

This is why we aim for a ‘balanced-ish’ approach and not perfection. Now that my two older kids are school age, we talk a lot about the food we eat and how it makes us feel/whether it gives us plenty of energy or leaves us sluggish/how we feel after we’ve eaten it. I encourage the kids to take a realistic approach to what they choose to eat and what we put in their lunchboxes together.

That might mean swapping out that lamington for a piece of fruit but leaving the potato chips. Or choosing a lower sugar chocolate snack bar alongside a serving of carrot sticks and hummus. 

Food is there to be enjoyed and we try not to talk about ‘good’ or bad’ foods. Instead, we focus on variety and foods that help us feel good, as well as our favourite treats enjoyed in moderation.

One of the better lunchbox days. Image: Supplied.

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2. Find an alternative (that actually tastes good).

The key here is 'actually tastes good'. Kids are smart. Once they hit the pre-school and school years, they will no longer be fooled by chocolate-covered sultanas or Medjool dates masquerading as a sweet treat. They’ll tolerate a substitute IF, and only if, it tastes like the real deal.

Finding low sugar, more nutritionally sound substitutes has therefore become my jam, which is one of the reasons we love Noshu Snackles rice pop bars. They LOOK like a sugary treat (I mean, colourful unicorn sprinkles just SCREAM ‘sugar’ to my kids) and, I can confirm, TASTE like a sugary treat. The flavours are Double Choc, Unicorn Sprinkles and Marshmallow - they have less than five per cent sugar and tastes amazing. It's a great option, compared to similar products which have more like 30 or 35 per cent added sugar.

But the ultimate test is whether they come back eaten (or not) in my kids' lunchboxes. And they do.

Getting your child to pose for a photo with food is a unique challenge. Here's my daughter with her Noshu Snackles bar. Image: Supplied.

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3. Don’t ban ANYTHING.

There have been times, especially when I’ve discovered some epic overindulgences on behalf of my kids, that I have wanted to ban certain foods from their diets.

Likewise, as they’ve gotten older and started going to birthday parties and friends' houses without me present, I have had to resist the temptation to tell them not to drink soft drink/chew bubblegum/eat their bodyweight in gummy lollies. 

I’m not going to lie, I don’t love them having these things. They’re not foods we have at home and I wouldn’t include them in my own diet BUT I am not my kids. And I know, if I tell them they can’t, eventually, they will.

And so, I try to encourage them to monitor their intake. To enjoy whatever it is they’re having without going completely mental and making themselves sick. I think this is a really good skill to learn from a young age as a lot of issues with food come from intensive restriction and I am hoping to help my kids avoid the mindset that certain foods are off limits and therefore ‘bad’, which ends up making them extremely tempting to those of any age (anyone who has tried to force themselves to stop eating chocolate will totally get this).

4. Prepare in advance for 'sugar surges'.

How good is food, though? Image: Supplied.

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I don’t know if it’s just my kids but in the hour before dinner, they appear to turn into insatiable beasts on the hunt for sugar. I believe it has something to do with the time of day, their blood sugar, being tired; that’s my theory anyway.

There has been many a spectacular meltdown over having to wait another seven minutes for dinner followed by a request for a biscuit, piece of chocolate, lolly, ice block, or basically any food that will give a quick hit of energy. 

Saying no is not always greeted cheerfully. Which is why I now prepare in advance and have a selection of more dinnertime appropriate snacks ready to go. 

This is usually chopped-up or steamed veggies, cheese cubes or even components of the dinner we are about to have; cooked pasta that hasn’t had sauce added to it yet, roasted veggies. I offer these to the kids to tide them over and, while there is often some grumbling, the majority of the time they can be placated, at least until the dinner is actually ready.

5. Encourage involvement in the kitchen.

As someone who loves to cook, I have had my kids in the kitchen with me since they were strapped to my front in a baby carrier. I am fairly certain they’ve seen me cook a number of family favourites so many times that they could probably do it themselves, blindfolded. 

Having them in the kitchen opens up plenty of opportunities for discussion around foods. The kids ask me endlessly about what I eat and why, and I often have them involved in meal prep in a variety of different ways. 

I try and ask for their input with different recipes, especially for snacks and food they take to school and we also chat about how we can make our chosen foods a little healthier, for example, adding things like chia and ground-up sunflower seeds to muffin batter or reducing the sugar content in recipes by substituting with fresh fruit.

It’s an ongoing, imperfect process but one which we build in at every age and stage.

What do you find works for your kids? Share with us below.

Noshu
Noshu is an Australian-owned sugar free foods company committed to developing revolutionary products that enhance your life in a positively delicious and healthy way. We take all the bad stuff out, and put the good stuff back in, making Noshu products as decadent, delicious and satisfying, as they are nutritious.
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