Help - Need to Cut the Sugar in Kids' Diet

Updated on November 04, 2012
D.M. asks from Littleton, CO
22 answers

I hate to admit it but I have fallen into the trap of giving the kids too much sugar. They are currently 6 and 4. I guess the good news is we don't do soda or fried food, however we have "issues". Too much juice (although diluted), yougurt tubes, dessert and fruit chews... I want to make their diets healthier, and would love any words of wisdom as to how to make it a bit easier on us all. I know we (my husband and I ) need to set a good example, and offer healthier choices etc. Just wondered if any of you can share some proven ways of cutting the sugar. (Timely w/ Halloween I know, but it will be over soon :)

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answers from Columbia on

Replace all of the above with whole fruits and fresh veggies with ranch dip.

For juice, get the lower sugar variety...but beware! Some that say they are lower sugar...aren't really.

For "Capri Sun" type drinks, the only ones that are actually low sugar are the "Roarin' Waters." The rest (including the type that SAYS "Lower Sugar" on the box!) are basically sugar water.

Don't buy Sunny Delight. It's LOADED with sugar. Also, watch out for things that masquerade as healthy, like granola bars, but have lots of sugar. If it has more than 8g per bar for a granola's too much. Nutrigrain bars are high sugar, and have high fructose corn syrup in them.

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answers from Dallas on

Moderation is key...

If you cut it cold turkey, you will all crave it more. Cut it slowly and remember, moderation. Replace the sugars will better choices.

Also, an easy peasy way to get out of the habit is to not purchase junk in the first place. I know I know, everyone buys a little junk sometimes, just moderation.

Many people have a tradition to have dessert after a meal.. Don't buy into that.

You are correct, you and your hubby model good behavior and eating habits. if you eat healthy, chances are your children will too.

I have a 17 yr old who will choose fruit over candy anyday and has been this way for years. Does she like occasional candy? Of course but she knows when she does induldge, it is simply that, occasional.

Don't get discouraged... change takes places slowly. Be consistant and things will fall into place.

Good luck.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

Everything is ok in moderation.
Leave the sweets and juices for special occasions, like Holidays and birthday parties.
How to cut it out?
Easy, dont buy it.

You shouldnt feel guilty about them eating their Halloween candy, because this should be a treat, not an everyday thing.

ETA- I have more to add, because Im not trying to be judgy, but this the reason why so many kids are obese these days and it really bothers me.

The food battle with children, is extremely hard, but to me it is worth it. Sometimes its ok if my kids think I am being unfair or think Im mean. I am doing it for their health and it is OK to say NO, even if they throw a fit.

What is not ok to me, is millions of kids running around obese.

If your kids give you trouble about this change, take them to the pediatrician and have a doctor explain how important this is.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Jut don't buy it.

It takes time, for the body to "wean" from sugars or refined sugars.

Then, make healthier foods.
Buy alternatives to "junk" foods. ie: Whole Foods for example, has healthier versions of some snacks and "snack" foods.
It is also about, learning how to read labels and buy healthier foods.
Then, using recipes to cook, that are healthier and less processed foods.

Your kids are 6 and 4. So that means also teaching them about eating healthy. Perhaps getting kids books on it etc. too.
And yes, if you want to improve the quality of foods your kids eat, then you/Hubby have to do so too.

It does not mean that kids can never have, treats. It is about moderation and buying better foods. Not junk. Nor keeping junk in the house.
Young kids, if they "see" junk food/candy in the house, they will want it. They don't have a finely developed sense of what "once a week is" or "1 hour later" is etc.

Juice... even if it is 100% natural, still has natural sugars in it.
So well yes, dilute it.
But there is no reason that juice HAS to be the only beverage a child drinks. Everyday. There is water too. Or, sparkling waters that have fruit flavorings and are all natural.
ie: fruit flavored sparkling water. This is water that only has fruit extract in it etc. and is practically zero calories. You just have to read the labels to find it. There are many brands.

My family and my kids, we hardly ever drink juice. We don't buy it as a matter of habit. I don't even put it on my grocery list. We drink water. Or those sparkling waters that are fruit flavored. It has either no or barely any sugar in it.
I read an article once, in Prevention magazine, that said that drinking even 1 cup of juice a day... can increase the risk for Diabetes.

Also, "dessert", at least in our house, is not a daily routine after meals. So the "habits" of eating... ALSO have to be improved, if a kid is used to having to have... dessert. Our kids don't have dessert. We are not a dessert family.
Fruit chews, are bad for the teeth. We don't buy those. But my kids can have it occasionally. But it is not a "habit" nor a regular purchase at the store.

Eating healthier, is also about changing your buying habits and eating habits and routines.

And anything with high fructose corn syrup is also very bad.
Read the labels of what you buy.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Lansing on

My opinion is out of site out of mind. And your kids are young enough where you can limit it all on your own.

Stop purchasing the juice, desserts, and fruit chews. Then they won't be able to ask for them.

For Halloween candy and the like put all the candy up and limit what they can have. Also you can make a big deal of donating it to the troops or turning it into the dentist. For me I just put it up and after a week take most of it to work. My girls never even realize it.

Also, it wouldn't hurt to have a good talk with them about what too much sugar will do to their teeth and bodies. My oldest daughter had to have a tooth pulled so she got her lesson the hard way. (She wasn't doing a good job brushing her teeth and her grandparents whom watched her a lot let her have as much sugar as she wanted)

Good luck!

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answers from Albuquerque on

Like everyone else... my advice is: just don't buy it. Don't buy fruit chews or juice -- neither has ANY redeeming value. Dessert every once in a while isn't a bad idea, but if you're serving cookies or ice cream or cake every night... then yes, it's too much. Stop buying it all, and replace dessert with a piece of whole fruit. You'll have two tough weeks where everyone whines and misses the sugar and then there will be a new normal and your kids won't whine. At my house we label each day and do something special each day. So Monday is movie day. That's the only day my kids watch TV. Tuesday is treat day. That means they get a cookie or ice cream after school, or for dessert. If you set expectations in advance - your kids will handle it and you'll all be healthier going forward.

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answers from Philadelphia on

I had the same issue with my kids when they were younger. There was dessert every night, every time we left the house for an outing, they'd ask "what treat do we get?", there were way too many "special occasions" short, it all just added up to waaaay too much sugar - we were ALL totally addicted.

So we started something called Sweet Saturday. I told them that they could have no sweets of any kind (fruit excluded, of course) during the week, but that on Saturday, we'd have an *awesome* dessert, whatever they wanted. We could bake cupcakes, or buy cupcakes, or do homemade hot fudge sundaes, whatever. But only on Saturday and only if we had nothing during the rest of the week.

It actually worked! On Wed or Thurs, we'd discuss what we wanted on Saturday and make a group decision. Eating only one (REALLY GREAT) sweet per week really helped wean them off the daily sugar.

We don't do Sweet Saturdays anymore. We don't have to. My kids still love sweets (I do, too!), but have learned to eat them in moderation. Life is no longer about "what's for dessert?" or "can you buy us candy? please, please, pleeeeeeeease?" And they've really developed a taste for the natural sugars in fruit, instead of *added* sugar.

It was tough in the beginning, but so totally worth it!

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answers from Lincoln on

The only juice I buy is Sunny D and my kids get one 4oz cup a day. That is it! They prefer to have it in the morning with their breakie. If they want it at lunch or supper, nope! They don't get it. I tell them either water or milk.
As far as yogurt, you have a few options. Buy the kids greek yogurt and add blueberries, banana's or strawberries to it! They will love it! Very healthy for you! Better than the Go-Gurt! Or... you can freeze the yogurt for a healthy snack. Either put it in a popsicle container and put in freezer or take a piece of wax paper and drop spoonfuls on the wax paper and freeze. Makes for a yummy healthy snack!
Fruit chews.... JUST DON'T BUY THEM! Simple as that. Buy raisens or crackers they can snack on instead. String cheese or cheese snacks are good too.
Look online. They have a lot of good ideas!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I think one of the difficulties we have today is that so many foods have hidden sugars and starches in them, both of which spark our appetites for more. So while you are reducing the foods that are obviously sugar laden, try to avoid many low-fat items that have sugar added to them (salad dressings, cereals, etc.). And when you do serve something with sugar or starches, be sure to have a serving of protein, which will reduce the sugar spikes and lows that cause us to "need" more sugar. So raisins and craisins could be served with nuts, crackers with cheese, and sugary fruits (oranges, apples, bananas) dipped in peanut butter. And there's nothing tastier than fresh berries!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

We don't purchase many prepackaged foods - helps immensely.
We buy the plain yogurt (regular or Greek) and add fresh chopped fruit to it - both cheaper and better.

We don't buy juice (OK - we will do fresh squeezed oj if we are staying at a nice hotel and if we host a Fall party we buy a gallon of cider). We do water and milk.

We do fresh fruit for dessert 95% of the time. In the summer if we want ice cream (occasional) - we go out for it - that way it is a one time thing and it's not sitting in the freezer.

We do fruit - not fruit snacks or fruit chews.

We do buy whole grain cereals. But I read the package closely - some have very little or no added sugar. Some have a ton.

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answers from Denver on

pick one a week to eliminate. and just don't buy them. they'll get them from plenty of other sources (soccer snacks come to mind!). but if you do one a week, it won't feel so sudden and they shouldn't complain as much.

also, look for it other places.
cereals - keep it at less than 5 g per serving. the answer below that says 12 g? really? a serving of cookies has that much!

it's in many sneaky, sneaky places. spaghetti sauce has quite a bit unless you read labels (Ragu has a no sugar added if you don't want to make your own). most peanut butters have added sugar. the canned veggies my MIL buys have added sugar! many breads have 6 g or more! so, you have to read labels. there's even some canned beans that have added sugar. most cereals other than kix/cheerios have as much or more sugar than a serving of cookies. have them read the labels w/you - it helps in them understanding why you won't buy it. I tell my kids I'm not against sugar - just that we should know we're eating dessert not something masquerading as a meal!

we also do plain yogurt and add our own honey or fruit.

in a couple years they should be old enough for our current solution. I bought a paper organizer, 3 drawer. each kid gets a drawer. their "candy/junk food" must fit in the drawer at all times. a couple times a week they get a treat and they choose from the drawer. I periodically clean it out (just got rid of the easter candy in prep for halloween). but, it makes them prioritize the "junk" because the drawer has to close easily. and they don't beg to eat the treats right after soccer because they know it will go in their drawer. and then, many times, it never gets eaten at all but I wasn't the bad guy and they didn't feel deprived.

also, i don't limit the "good" sugar too much. things like dark chocolate covered almonds or free trade dark chocolate. squares of those are offered fairly often (maybe because they're my weakness!). it makes the other stuff not so attractive because it really isn't very good compared.

good luck. it's a battle worth fighting!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

I'm surprised that a health nut like myself has fallen into the same 6, 4 and 3 and "treats" seem to fly out of the woodwork from outer space. My method of choice is keeping the NORMAL diet low in sugar so treats aren't the end of the world.

Where I fail is the stupid Kashi sugarific cereals in the morning....but I think some diluted juice is OK. I make smoothies with plain yogurt and whole frozen fruit (and raw greens but they dont' know it) rather than any packaged yogurts which have so much sugar. We really do no packaged sweet foods (other than cereal) with sugar, so when candy and ice cream and cookies fly their way from friends and activities and schools etc I try to just keep them scarce and take it day by day. Luckily they burn off a ton of energy :)

Good luck! I think as they get older it will be easier (I hope)..gotta go..UPS guy just dropped off package of sweet treats from Popcorn Factory (thanks, grandma)

Oh, I've been meaning to start making my own granola/snack bars with tons of different things, supposedly there are great recipes online, but I haven't gotten around to it sugarific Nature Valley's have been happening a little too much :(

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

A serving of juice per day is less than 8oz depending on the age of the person doing the drinking so if your kids are having more than 4-6 oz's per day that's too much.

Just work on cutting out some of the added stuff like the fruit roll ups. Those are really easy and not so horrible compared to a candy bar. I suggest you never use artificial sweeteners of any sort. Real sugar is always the healthiest. More and more research is coming out about all artificial sweeteners, they all start to show serious side effects after a few years of eating them all the time. They are not something that kids need. They need to limit sugar of course but they need natural foods and not artificial ones.

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answers from Denver on

Hope this helps...We allow our kids only 1-2 glasses of juice a week---1/2 lemonade and 1/2 water. And if they want a treat, I make them eat a healthy food first. For Halloween, we hand out colored bracelets (from Target, $1.00 for 15 bracelets and Halloween pencils and kettle corn (1 gram of sugar per package). Set a good example by not buying the junk food and having a healthy alternative always on hand.


answers from San Francisco on

My youngest is an absolute sugar junkie.
I find the best way to control it is simply not to buy (much of) it.
Donuts and ice cream are treats we go OUT for, I don't keep them around the house.
Cookies are cupcakes are something we bake, together, once a week or so.
We get our sugar fix with things like maple syrup, drizzled on pancakes or waffles.
Semi sweet cereals like Life or Cheerios or Special K, no more than 12 grams of sugar per serving.
I also pack a single treat in her lunch every day, like mandarin oranges (very sweet!) or a chocolate chip granola bar. Yes, these things are sugary but somewhat healthy, and it's just once a day.
Oh and my girls both LOVE fruit smoothies: frozen strawberries, a banana, and equal parts apple, orange and cranberry juice, that's it :-)



answers from Houston on

I haven't had to stop any bad eating habits yet in my little one, but one thing that helps him to enjoy his foods is that I have him in the market with me when I buy produce. He enjoys handling the foods and helping me to pick it out and load the basket. When we get home, I let him watch me prepare it, and maybe help a little. (He's not two years old yet, so once I start in with the knives and fire, I keep him at a bit of a distance.)

When someone suggested pear juice to help his bowel activity, I opted to juice pears instead of looking high and low for the best pear juice. Those "special" juices can be so expensive, too, because I am always seeking purity. It has made a difference with us. I juice pears and apples and sometimes carrots for the family, and we enjoy it. It's not particularly time-consuming, either. Although fruits contain sugar, it's a natural sugar that's better than the other stuff. Maybe substituting sweet juice for a piece of candy would work for you. Or freezing the juice for a natural popsicle. If you peel the fruit first, then you can use the juiced pulp to cook with or mix with a plain yogurt.



answers from Colorado Springs on

My daughter enjoys fruit-flavored water - you can do this by squeezing a little lemon or orange juice into it. I use plain yogurt and sweeten it with fresh fruit, or with raisins and cinnamon. You can use unsweetened dried fruit instead of fruit chews. Also I sweeten muffins and cookies with less sugar than the recipe calls for and add applesauce or bananas instead. Instead of dessert, you could reward them with a fun family activity perhaps?

A great cookbook is "Deceptively Delicious" by Jessica Seinfeld - she hides vegetables in all the dishes and also offers tips on cutting sugar.

I hope that helps!



answers from Denver on

I am in the same boat as you, we eat so healthy- except for the sweets. I agree with the just don't buy it votes. I've done better with that. Also, the biggest improvement for me has been to plan snacks as much as I plan meals. We're big snackers, and often I haven't thought ahead about those, so when my daughter is hungry, I can't think of anything and end up making a poor choice for/with her. Planning ahead helped a lot. I try to have veggies cut up ahead of time, so I just pull them out and dip in some ranch (made from yogurt) or hummus. The funny thing is I thought she'd 'rebel', but she didn't. She's still allowed a treat from time to time, just not as often. Moderation.

Also, I have started making our own granola bars and they are WAY better than what you can buy. I put whatever I want in there, and use a little honey, and also brown rice syrup to sweeten them. They are great. Look online for recipes, but if you can't find one let me know and I'll send you mine.

It is a challenge, and hard for me too since I love sweets! It's a little at a time. A big sweeping change won't work, it's too much! Good luck!



answers from Denver on

Do your kids like veggies? My kids will eat any veggie as long as there's something to dip it in. Popcorn or sugar free jello-always good desserts or pudding are always good desserts though I found after several months of offering only those items or veggies for dessert that they would choose to go to bed without dessert. That was a pretty good deal. After that I would just conveniently forget to buy their favorite cookies and from then on we didn't have store bought cookies anymore. They didn't really miss it. Don't try massive changes all at once just drop one sugary thing every month or so and replace it with something healthy or don't replace it at all. And remember that there's sugar in everything-even ketchup so by taking away the obvious sweets you're still not taking away ALL the sugar their little brains seem to think they need. I'd cut that juice out first and foremost. My kids loved the little packages of sugar free fruity tasting drinks that you mix in your water bottle. Remember to get them one water bottle and don't buy bottles of water (just my little pitch for the environment LOL).



answers from Chicago on

Simply get the foods you want to reduce/limit out of the house. Out of site, out of mind (mostly).

Read all lables, Fruit instead of juice. Fruit for desert. Offer rewards for X amount of water intake vs juice. Eat the colors of the rainbow.
Some examples
Red- Cherries, strawberries, red peppers, beets,
Orange- Squash, canteloupe, sweet potatoes, oranges, mangos
Yellow- corn, spagehti squash, lemons, Bannanas
Green- Green beans, broccoli, peas, avacados
Blue- Blueberries,
Purple- egplant, grapes, raisens,

You can make a game out of eating the colors of the rainbow each week, For every "rainbow" food they eat, they get a star/marble. When they get x star/marbles they get something that they like, Extra TV time, Book time, stay up late etc.. what ever drives them.

I make frozen bars for my kids.. I take the fruit, vanilla yogurt, mix it in the blender Freeze.. there is desert, fruit & probiotics.

Good luck

Keep in mind, Fresh or frozen is better above all others..



answers from Cincinnati on

We have successfully cut the sugar in our home. My family has a history of diabetes, as does my husbands, although neither of us have it. My son is mixed, part American (with some native american) and part Japanese. Native Americans and mixed races have a higher chance to become diabetic, so I really wanted to teach my son about good nutrition from a young age. Now, my husband and I both had a huge sweet tooth, and my husband liked the fatty junk food as well. It took a lot of effort, but we have cut most of it out of our diets.

Start with looking at labels. Sugar is hidden in many things. Salad dressing is a particularly bad one. I make my own dressings now. I would cut one item a week, until you are down to just one item which could be your special treat from time to time. If you bake your own sweets, try decreasing the sugar slightly each time you bake it. I have managed to cut most of my recipes sugar amount in half, some even less than half.

When my son first started eating, I made a discovery. I actually liked plain carrots, plain cucumber sticks, plain broccoli. If you eat plain food for a week, then go back to slowly adding the sauces, you may find you don't want as much of the sauce.

If you make your own sauces, you can cut the sugar, bad fats, and salt out a lot. If you learn to make big batches, you can freeze some of it for later. Learn to use herbs and spices to add flavor to your food. They are so much healthier and in my opinion they tast better too.

We only drink a small glass of juice a day (100ml). We have one glass of milk a day (200ml). Other than that it is water. If it isn't in the fridge, you can't drink it.

My son eats snack food and sweets sometimes as a special treat, but he is fine with eating fruit, chestnuts, raisins, yogurt, cheese, or vegetables for his daily snack.

Start slowly and form new habits. As you adjust, cut a little more until you reach your goal. Try not to focus so much on the end goal, but on how much better your body feels as you slowly cut out the sugar. Too much sugar, actually can make you sluggish. Try adding moree nutritious things to your diet slowly. Make sure you have plenty of complex carbs, protein and fiber in your meals to help curb the desire to grab something sweet when you feel hungry.

Good luck. It is so worth the effort it takes to become healthier.


answers from Detroit on

The Belly Fat Cure book has a ton of sugar free meals....

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