One of the biggest pitfalls with kids and healthy eating right now is that they’re keeping their blood sugar levels slightly elevated all day long with regular doses of poor quality, refined foods and drinks (high calorie/low nutrient density) such as sweetened sodas, juice (often from a fruit, but too high in sugar), and “snack foods” such as refined chips, pretzels, crackers, cookies, etc.
This practice has 3 main consequences: Giving your kids regular “doses” of these foods and drinks between meals throughout the day can keep their true hunger signal turned off, so they are more reluctant to eat the healthier mealtime foods.
Eating “sugar foods” like these all day long can alter their palates and cause them to lose their tastes for other flavors on the spectrum, especially bitter, so things like veggies are no longer palatable.
These foods have too many calories without enough nutrition, so kids who eat a lot of them tend to gain weight. In addition, because they cause a rapid glucose rise, which triggers a correspondingly rapid insulin increase, eating a lot of them can make that cycle unstable and in many kids the more of those foods they eat, the more they want. These children are overweight, but their bodies are often lacking in certain micronutrients because the quality of what they’re eating is so poor. They are overfed, but undernourished.
Try these tips to help counter this problematic habit:
- Serve water instead of soda or juice to “turn on” their natural appetites.
- Think of snacks as mini-meals and balance the macronutrients better. Most snack foods are highly refined carbohydrates or other sweet foods that turn rapidly into blood sugar and spike the glucose levels in the body. Fiber, protein, and fat act like time-release for sugary foods, including all the whites, so including some foods or ingredients that contain those with the typical crackers, pretzels, cereal bars, etc will help to satisfy your child and balance out the sugar cravings. So serve those crackers or pretzels with cheese or a smear of nut butter or bean spread like hummus; serve dried fruits (high in sugars) with Greek yogurt (higher in protein than regular yogurt); serve dry cereal with slices of boiled egg, etc.
- Eat fewer foods with artificial or chemical ingredients (none is best!!). Become a label detective: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it! If the ingredients list is long, find another product with a shorter list. It only takes 4 or 5 ingredients to make a wholesome cookie or cracker, not 13!
- Upgrade the quality of their foods: get real. Start swapping out heavily refined and processed junk foods for recognizable real foods, especially the “whites”: white sugar, flour, rice and potatoes – mostly French fries –Swap them out for the “browns” or less refined, whole grain products. This one change will automatically reduce the total amount of sugar, salt and poor quality fat, while increasing fiber (lacking in most children’s diets), in your family’s by a significant percentage.