Break Your Kid's Bad Food Habits

Overdosing on Sugar

Why it's bad
Babies are born with a preference for sweet stuff, so it's no surprise that all kids love it. But added sugar -- the kind in desserts and sweet snacks -- also provides a lot of calories without a lot of nutrition. Food surveys reveal that toddlers take in the equivalent of 14 teaspoons of sugar every day, while 4- to 5-year-olds get about 17.

How to break the habit

  • Set limits. Instead of going cold turkey, establish some basic (and fair) rules -- then stick to them. Maybe it's a one-sweet-treat-a-day policy or perhaps a couple of small goodies (like a small square of chocolate or a bite-size cookie). Whatever it is, be clear about it and give your kids some choice, says Tanner-Blasiar. For instance, ask, "Do you want to have your sweet treat now or after dinner?" Keeping a limited number of sugary foods in the house will help.
  • Scout out sugar. Look at the sugar content of the foods your child's eating -- especially the ones you may not consider treats, like breakfast cereal and fruit snacks. Every four grams is the equivalent of a teaspoon of sugar. Eating a lot of sweet foods all day will stimulate her appetite for even more, so switch to low-sugar versions of favorites like yogurt and cereal and compare labels to find the best choices.
  • Don't assume. If you automatically trot out cookies and ice cream after dinner, you won't give your child a chance to satisfy her sweet tooth with healthier things, says Tanner-Blasiar. She just might go gaga over a sliced banana with cinnamon sprinkled on it, chunks of fresh pineapple, or strawberries topped with a dollop of fat-free whipped topping.

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