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Rethinking Sugar and Snacks

Snuggle Bugz | | Comments 0

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Let’s start this out with a bad word...ready? SUGAR! Ready for another one? SNACKS! Wait a minute, those are not actually bad words. So why do we treat them like they are? In our podcast 40 Weeks to Forever, we chatted with Megan McNamee, a Registered Dietitian and co-owner of “Feeding Littles” to help guide us through re-framing our idea of sugar and take back control with 4 simple concepts.

Don't Make it an Obsession

A lot of us think the less sugar we let our kids have, the better. As it turns out, that’s not always the case.

When we stringently limit our children’s intake of sweets, it can inadvertently lead them to idolize sugar and want more. After all, we all want what we can’t have, right? When we put a firm “no” on sugar, it can become a craving, and then before you know it, that’s all your little one can think about.

Imagine it’s your morning cup of coffee. For many of us, the first thing we do in the morning is head to the coffee pot to get us moving and ready for the day. If we were told we had to give it up, our body would crave the caffeine (and the ritual), and it would be challenging for us to get it out of our heads.

It’s the same idea for your kids with sweets. When sugar is treated like a “forbidden fruit” it is easy for children to see it as this amazing thing they can’t have. This is why the mindset of avoidance is problematic in the first place — it can make sugar and snacking an obsession.

It's Not a Bargaining Tool

A lot of us remember growing up with the phrases, “We’ll get ice cream if you’re good” or “no dessert because you didn’t clean your room.”

These statements are bargains. You’re withholding sugar as a punishment or giving it as a reward. Let’s try to disconnect food from behaviour.

When offering these treats as a reward, you’re reinforcing your child’s belief that they are something to be idolized — which makes these treats even more coveted.

Energy flows where attention goes. As parents, we stress about sugar way too much, which also elevates the importance of sweets in our child’s mind. We say, “you’re eating too much sugar” or “you can’t have that, it’s too sugary”. The more we obsess, the more our littles pick up on it...which makes them want it even more!

It's Just Normal Food

Yes, too much sugar or snacks can be detrimental to our health, but it is also a big part of our lives.

Special treats are a major part of life celebrations. Think about it. Birthdays, holidays, and family gatherings in general, almost always feature some sort of a delectable treat. It’s just a part of our lives.

This becomes problematic when trying to follow strict diets. For example, guidelines suggest babies have no added sugar until 2, but that may be unrealistic for many families. Let’s be honest, a lot of the foods we eat (such as bread or pasta sauce) contain added sugar. It’s a bit more realistic to not give children sweets — especially if they are the first or only child. However, avoiding sugary treats forever is close to impossible.

When you do decide to serve sweets, separate them from what you’ve already served. For example, do not make the serving of dessert contingent on if your child has cleaned their plate during dinner. Separating it from their dinner lets them decide how much of their dessert they want to eat.

Yup, you read that right! This is the cool part. Kids will sometimes surprise us. A lot of us can’t imagine stopping after just a couple of bites of a cookie because we have a complicated relationship with food. Kids don’t have that relationship built into them yet.

Experiment with this. When you offer treats, don’t prompt your child with what reaction they “should” and watch and see. They may decide they are done after a few bites. They haven’t been conditioned with notions about which foods we hoard. They take what they want and leave the rest, just like normal food!

Let's Talk About It!

One of the big reasons why we let sugar and snacks occupy so much space in our minds is that we don’t talk enough about food. Talk to your littles about healthy eating habits! While they are strong-willed individuals, they don’t know much about the world around them yet. We understand that too much sugar is bad for our body, and we understand the difference between snacks and meals — they don’t. It's our job to teach them about moderation and eating a balanced diet. Snacks are something to hold you over until you can enjoy your next meal, nothing more.
Food brings us together, it powers our bodies, and helps us grow! Our littles don’t have the same relationship with foods that we do, until we teach them. As parents, we may need to analyze how we view food and what messages we are giving to our children. It’s not easy to unlearn these things, but it is possible. Sugar and snacking are not our enemies, and they don’t have to be viewed that way by our children either. Let’s stop being afraid of sugar. It doesn’t have to hold this big scary place in our lives. Let food just be food!

*This information was taken from the 40 Weeks to Forever Podcast. Season 1, Episode 5: First Foods & Toddler Table Manners - with Feeding Littles
Guest: Megan McNamee.