Every generation of parents faces different challenges when it comes to raising their children. That may explain why grandparents and their adult children don’t always see eye-to-eye over what a child should eat for breakfast. Yet the one part of childhood nutrition they usually do agree on is the need to reduce the amount of added sugars children consume.
Back when I was in elementary school parents and teachers warned us to cut back on added sugars to avoid cavities and those dreaded trips to the dentist for drillings and fillings. Today, thanks to fluoridated water and better dental hygiene, childhood tooth decay is better controlled. Now children face rising rates of obesity and excess added sugars are being blamed for contributing to the problem.
So when I get questions from parents (and grandparents) about whether their children should have chocolate milk or plain milk with their school lunch, drink lemonade or lemon seltzer at the family picnic, or order a soda or glass of water at a pizza party, I recommend drinks that replace sugar with low-calorie sweeteners, like SPLENDA® Sweetener Products, for a simple solution.
As fellow Registered Dietitian Hope Warshaw explained in her blog, “American Academy of Pediatrics Weighs In on Added Sugar and Sugar Substitutes,” the Academy recognizes the safety of low-calorie sweeteners for children and their use as a tool to reduce the added sugars and calories in a child’s diet. The important point here is that they are a tool, and when used as part of a balanced diet, low-calorie sweeteners can help children enjoy a wide variety of foods and beverages they might not be willing to eat without a little sweetness.
Lead By Example
The best way to introduce children and teens to drinks with less added sugar is to let them see you choosing and drinking them. They should feel good about the choice, not stigmatized for having something labeled “sugar free.” It also helps if you serve just one beverage option for everyone in the family instead of segregating the sugar-free version for only some members. And it makes life easier when you only have to find room for just one pitcher of sugar-free iced tea on the picnic table!
Another important behavior to model for children is moderation. Serving sizes of no-calorie and low-calorie beverages should be age appropriate along with their frequency of use. And they should never replace recommended servings of low-fat milk and 100% fruit juices that provide essential nutrients.
Special occasions like birthday parties and youth sporting events provide a perfect opportunity to offer drinks with less added sugar to a child since plenty of high-calorie foods are typically being eaten, including many that contain added sugars. These occasions also provide a very effective “teachable moment” for a child when they realize they can have the frosted cupcake or goody bag of candy and the drink with less added sugar, but must give up the treats if they have the sugar-sweetened drink.
Let Children Help
Allowing children to help prepare family meals is a valuable way to teach them about good nutrition. A good place to start is by making smoothies together. This Strawberry Orange Smash Smoothie contains strawberries, calcium fortified orange juice, non-fat yogurt and SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener to make a delicious and nutritious drink for kids of any age.
Since most children love watermelon and it doesn’t require a sharp knife to chop up once cut open, you can let your little ones help make this Watermelon Lemonade. Just make sure they wear their swim goggles while squeezing the lemons!
And if you have teenagers looking for something more “sophisticated” to drink, let them try this Homemade Chai. It’s full of flavor from the fresh ginger and dried spices with just enough sweetness from SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, to keep them smiling as they sip.
You can find many more beverage recipes with less added sugar on Splenda.com and more good advice on dealing with childhood weight gain and obesity in the blog “Small Changes Can Help Children and Teens Manage Weight” by my colleague Sue Taylor.
I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.
To learn more recipe tips for cooking and baking with SPLENDA® Sweeteners, visit the Cooking & Baking section of this blog.
Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.